How do people like O. J. Simpson get away with murder? Ever since mankind roamed the Earth, murder has been a part of life. Once we became civilized it was considered a serious crime. With the adoption of the court system, we have developed legal defenses that justify taking another person’s life. Defense attorneys have come up with very convincing arguments that let sadistic killers get away with murder. It takes a unanimous decision of twelve jurors to result in a conviction, and only one to “rock the boat.
As described in these six different murder cases, all it takes to persuade one person to vote not-guilty is a clever defense. Homicidal Somnambulism In the Steven Stienberg case, (Scottsdale, Arizona, 1981) Steven was accused of murdering his wife with a kitchen knife. Mrs. Stienberg was stabbed 26 times. Mr. Stienberg told police that intruders had killed her during a burglary gone awry. In 1982, in the Maricopa County Superior Court, Steven testified that he acknowledged the murder, but that he did it while sleepwalking, couldn’t remember the crime, and therefore, was not guilty.
His story changed dramatically from what he originally told police, which raised doubt on the prosecutor’s side. A California psychiatrist, Dr. Martin Blinder stated that the murder was committed under “dissociative reaction”. The plea was changed to not guilty due to temporary insanity. The jury believed Steinberg was sleepwalking, and therefore was not responsible for bludgeoning his wife Elana. He was exonerated of his murder charge (Sleepwalking: Definition from Answers. om, 2009). This defense is very convenient and convincing. Since the first recorded case in 1846, 68 more cases resulted in acquittal using sleepwalking as a defense. Things are now different under Arizona law.
Since 1994, judges have had to impose “guilty but insane” to sentences which were formerly based on “temporary insanity”. Now the murderers must serve a sentence in a mental institution, which may last as long as if they went to prison. (Sleepwalking: Definition from Answers. om, 2009) Prosecutorial Misconduct In United States v. Koubriti, et al. , an indictment charging four individuals with involvement in the 9/11 attacks, was the first post 9/11 case to go to trial. The defense alleged that the government knowingly concealed and misused evidence. The Justice Department conducted a nine month internal review which revealed that prosecutors railroaded the defendants to prison, concealing dozens of pieces of exculpatory evidence that should have been given to defense attorneys at the trial.
Judge Rosen ordered a new trial for the three men in which they will only face the least serious charged (which they were also previously charged) of document fraud. In his ruling, Judge Rosen noted the understandable governments’ need to obtain a conviction of these Arab and Islamic suspects due to the wake of the 9/11 attacks, but that it impaired their professional judgment, their obligation to the justice system, and the rule of the law. Farouk Ali-Haimoud, Ahmed Hannan, Karim Koubriti, and Abdel llah Elmardoudi were charged with operating an Islamic sleeper cell.
Elmardoudi and Koubriti were convicted of conspiring to provide material to support terrorists and document fraud, Hannan of document fraud, and Haimoud was acquitted of all charges (Karim Koubriti, 2003). Despite the court’s decision, the fact that they were providing materials to support terrorism made them accomplices to murder. Metro Card Alibi In May, 2009, Jason and Corey Jones were charged with fatally shooting a man near the Yankee stadium because he had been a government witness in drug and gun cases. A government witness told police that the brothers shot the man.
Others stated the brothers were elsewhere. A few months later, the defense attorney asked New York City Transit to trace his movements using his metro card. The results corroborated with Mr. Jones statement that he used it on a bus and later a subway approximately five miles from the shooting. There was no video to back this up (After Metrocard Alibi murder charges are dropped-NY Times. com, 2008). Despite that five miles is close enough for someone else to use the card and return it to Mr. Jones, the prosecutors dropped charges anyway.
Incompetent Defense George A. McCutcheon was convicted of murdering his friend in November, 1986, by the Orange County Superior Court jury in 2009. He said he fired in self defense over an argument about a television. McCutcheon appealed his conviction on the premise that his defense attorney failed to represent his story properly at the trial. The 4th District Court of Appeal in Santa Ana faulted defense attorney James S. Odriozola for failure to explore the defendant’s drunken state at the time of the shooting, failing to ask the jury for a lesser verdict of assault, and for other tactical errors during the initial defense.
The court found that “had McCutcheon been represented by competent, well-prepared council, the probability is high he would have achieved a dramatically better result” (Incompetent Defense ruled in Trabuco Case-LA Times, 1988) The probability is high that he knew he could use this incompetence to his advantage, rather than demand that his defense attorney represent him properly during the first trial. Mistaken Identity On October 13, 1987, five men were shot and killed in an auto repair shop in Spokane.
Misael Barajas, Juan Antonio Garcia, Eliceo Lamas, Rafael Magollin, and Francisco Cortez. Aldo Montes was the only survivor, who identified Vicente Ruiz as the shooter from a collection of six photos. Evidence collected from several different locations also implicated Ruiz. Defense lawyer Bob Thompson said police got the wrong man. He states the motive for the murders were drug dealing and trafficking, counterfeiting and money laundering, yet nothing points to Ruiz playing a role in it.
Thompson said it’s a case of mistaken identification, and that although evidence shows he was at the scene, there was no evidence he pulled the trigger. Ruiz was taken into custody by Pasco police in October, 2007, at Los Angeles International Airport. He denied any involvement in the shootings, and when investigators asked him why he left for Mexico 23 years ago he stated he was on a long vacation. After two mistrials, the case has been moved to Spokane County, which started November 9, 2010, and is expected to last through December (Mistaken identity, Ruiz defense says, 2010).
It is interesting how evidence placed him at the scene, as well as an eyewitness, and he didn’t fire a shot, and there’s no other evidence that point to who did. (I think I need a vacation…) “Flashover” Fire November 20, 1981, in Prescott, Arizona, Ray Girdler’s wife, Sherrie and his three year-old daughter, Jennifer died in their burning home. He was the only survivor and was convicted of murder by arson in 1982. At that time state fire marshal, David Dale testified that ignited gasoline around the victims caused the blaze.
Girdler was sentenced to 71 years in Arizona State Prison by Yavapai County Superior Court Judge, James Sult, for 2 counts of arson murder and one count of arson. September, 1990, defense attorney Hammond represented Girdler in a new trial that was allowed based on new evidence. Defense experts argued that Girdler’s home was not torched by arson, but destroyed by a newfound phenomenon known as “flashover” fire. Experts explain that this occurs when hot gases produced in the beginning of a fire collect and build heat at the ceiling level.
When the temperature of those gases reaches approximately 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit, everything in the room catches on fire. Furthermore, it mimics the results of an arson fire ignited by liquid accelerants. They said a smoldering cigarette or a homemade electrical appliance started the blaze. State fire marshal Dale said that during the initial hearing he knew of the phenomenon in 1982 and had ruled out the possibility. At the new trial he testified he still believed Girdler intentionally poured gasoline around his wife and daughter.
Charges were reversed regardless of Dale’s testimony, as Judge Sult tossed out the murder conviction (Down in Flames Judge Tosses Out Murder conviction in 1981Prescott Arson Case, 1990). Ray Girdler was fortunate that this ”flashover” fire phenomenon existed in order to burn the truth. Conclusion Murder suspects will say anything to get away with it. Some defense attorneys are clever enough to make a jury believe just about anything. Many cases are being retried, based on new “evidence” which is nothing more than creative defense tactics, used to let killers get away with murder.
January 9, 2018
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