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Crim Law question


RyDogg66

Question for people who know more about Criminal Law than I do.

 

Murder trial. Two defendants. Once takes plea deal to testify against the other. The one who takes the plea deal is identified as the accomplice, but not the one who commits the murder. He pleads guilty to second degree murder. He then takes stand against guy who actually did the crime. That guy's defense was that it was self defense against the alleged victim. Yadda, Yadda, yadda, the jury comes back and finds the defendant not guilty of intentional homicide, they believe it was self defense. He skates, then the sentencing is up for the accomplice and he gets 20 years.

 

Is there any recourse for the accomplice in our legal system? I would think not, but it sure is an unfortunate result.

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nope, he made a deal. Think of it like Deal or No Deal. Do you take the lower amount of money that you know you have or do you say no deal and hope that you get a better amount. Once you make a deal you are stuck with it. When you make a deal you agree to a lesser term instead of taking the chance you are found guilty and more then likely have a stiffer sentence.
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Right, but there are issues with the plea deal. For one, pressure put on defendants to confess, especially pressure from detectives who believe they know how the crime happened and tell the defendant that if they dont take the deal they have enough to prove it and you will get life.

 

The other question I have is What is the purpose of the justice system. Here the police believe this was murder, not self defense. We have someone the police know did NOT commit the murder, was only there and assisted the murderer, getting 20 years while the person the police know killed the person getting off on a good self defense claim/attorney. If a jury says "no, the police got it wrong" and in the process of getting it wrong they get one person to flip and take 20 years out of fear of spending the rest of his life in prison, shouldnt there be some recourse for that person? Afterall, they cooperated and tried to help the police by testifying against the killer.

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I don't do crim law (not even a little bit), but the one thing that jumps out about your example is the presence of an accomplice.

 

When two or more people plan the commission of a crime, and one of them goes through with it, you don't charge the crime itself; you charge a conspiracy to commit that crime. If the action was planned out, both the person committing the crime and all conspirators may be sentenced up to the full sentence for commission of the crime.

 

It is possible that the non-pleading defendant could overcome that evidentiary burden, if the Jury doesn't find the conspirator's testimony as credible...it's just not particularly likely. (It's hard to allege that you were defending yourself against the guy you had made already been planning to kill.)

 

As to the higher points of the justice system, this is why the conspiracy statute (939.31, if you're really curious) exists: they're both guilty. The wheel-man in a bank robbery is guilty as a party to the crime, even though he didn't actually take the money out of the bank. The Conspirator made a deal because he preferred the terms of the deal over the risk of a longer sentence if found guilty. (The "Prisoner's Dilemma" got its name in game theory for a reason.) The murderer, facing similar odds, decided to roll the dice, and got off. I'm sure the District Attorney would have preferred getting a sentence against both guilty parties in the interests of justice, but that's not always possible. That is, after all, why even guilty people have the right to a fair trial.

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Yeah, I dont dabble in criminal law at all either, and by the time we got to Conspiracy in Crim Law I had pretty well checked out. This is a real life case going on right now in Michigan. http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080408/NEWS02/804080379/1004/NEWS

 

The facts are this: (Law school final exam question to follow)

 

Three people, DEF1, DEF2 and VIC, plan to extort money from another party. In reality, DEF1 tells DEF2 he wants to kill VIC "for the thrill of it" more or less and that the extortion is a set up to get VIC to the garage. DEF2 testifies that he did not believe DEF1 was going to go through with it, but doesnt tell anyone before it happens or after. When VIC shows up, under the premise he is going to get money from the unnamed third party, DEF1 kills him. DEF2 doesnt help but watches, then helps dispose of body.

 

DEF2 pleads guilty to 2nd degree murder and agrees to testify against DEF1.

 

DEF1 says that all along the plan was to exort the money, and that VIC, who has a not-so-clean background shows up he gets mad that there is no money and pulls out a gun (not disputed he had a gun) and that DEF1 killed him because he feared for his life. VIC is 26 and a big guy, DEF1 is 17 and looks 12.

 

End of facts.

 

 

I watched some of this trial on CourtTv. I highly doubt the jury is going to buy the self defense claim, (however there is a burden shifting statute in Michigan that says State must prove it wasnt self defense) but I did get to thinking about what might happen if they did, as DEF2 seems likable and somewhat caught up in something that wasnt his idea.

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I just took Crim Law I last semester and remember going over this stuff. I even believe we read a case that involved an accomplice taking a plea and getting more time than the actual person who committed the crime. Or that could've just been a hypo but I'm not sure. It's definitely plausible. Even though DEF1 said he wanted to kill the guy doesn't necessarily mean he was going to, after all, DEF2 said he didn't believe he was going to go through with it. So if the jury decides that the VIC pulled the gun out first and that DEF1 was merely protecting himself, then DEF1 would get off and DEF2 would be stuck. I think it's a lot more realistic of a possibility than people think. However, if DEF2 were smart and saw that it was self-defense (or could've been interpreted as through the courts), then he wouldn't have taken the plea.
This is Jack Burton in the Pork Chop Express, and I'm talkin' to whoever's listenin' out there.
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As was pointed out before, D2 agree to plead guilty of 2nd degree, which essentially is him admitting he is guilty of 2nd degree murder. He decided to risk being convicted of first degree and spend the rest of his life in prison. As soon as the judge accepts his plea, thats the end of it...no recourse.

The thing that i wonder about is this. D2 saw what D1 did. If D2 actually thought it was a legitimate case of self-defense, I wonder why he pled guilty to 2nd degree instead of using the same defense as D1. If it wasn't really self-defense, then D2's testimony should have been enough to convict D1. Strange case indeed.

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As was pointed out before, D2 agree to plead guilty of 2nd degree, which essentially is him admitting he is guilty of 2nd degree murder. He decided to risk being convicted of first degree and spend the rest of his life in prison. As soon as the judge accepts his plea, thats the end of it...no recourse.

 

The thing that i wonder about is this. D2 saw what D1 did. If D2 actually thought it was a legitimate case of self-defense, I wonder why he pled guilty to 2nd degree instead of using the same defense as D1. If it wasn't really self-defense, then D2's testimony should have been enough to convict D1. Strange case indeed.

As to part one of your response - He isnt so much admitting to being guilty of 2nd degree as he is saying that "you might have enough to convict me of 1st degree, Id rather know I'll be out in 20 and have a life at 38 than risk a mandatory life sentence. It isnt all that common.

 

As to point two (and somewhat point one). Cops tell suspects what they want them to confess to all the time, and guess what? People confess to things they dont do...all the time, even "smart" people. I graduated law school with a guy who was convicted of murder in Texas, mostly because the cops did terrible detective work and then went to work on this guy (who found the body) until he confessed. The Wisconsin Innocence Project got him out, and he graduated law school with me. So that being said, he could think it was self defense, but he is just a kid, and if he thinks the police think it is murder (which they do think, and it likely is) then he thinks it is murder and wants a deal to save his life.

 

Making deals to get less 20 years as opposed to life isnt that uncommon, especially if you have been convinced by the experts (the police) that if you dont plea you will get life.

 

Cops lie all the time.

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Just a few things:

 

-As was already mentioned, being a party to the crime is the exact same as if you committed the crime yourself.

 

-There is a big difference between the police using coercion to get a confession and district attorney's using coercion for a defendant to accept a plea deal. Police cannot use coercion to get a confession. (Example: Confess or we are going to charge you with 1st degree murder instead of 2nd degree. That's coercion.)

 

However, police are allowed to use deception during interviews and interrogations. (For instance: "We had 2 witnesses who saw you do this" when there were no witnesses whatsoever.) The police do not have the power to charge someone with a crime. They are not the one who decides between 1st degree and 2nd degree murder. They can make recommendations, but ultimately it is the D.A. who charges the suspect.

 

Afterall, they cooperated and tried to help the police by testifying against the killer.

 

Actually, it sounds like he cooperated because that was part of the plea deal. If there was no plea deal, he would not have had to testify.

 

Lost in all of this is justice for the victim's family. If this really was homicide and not self-defense, would there be any justice if both parties involved walked? Absolutely not.

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Yeah I'm not sure if they have a felony murder staute or not. I've never really understood the point of it since if it's murder, it's murder. I know Dickey's not a fan of it either cuz it just doesn't seem necessary.
This is Jack Burton in the Pork Chop Express, and I'm talkin' to whoever's listenin' out there.
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The idea of accepting a plea bargain while being not guilty is foreign to me. The fella who accepted the plea bargain felt he was saving himself, and the other person will likely be back before a judge within a year or two. Ask Tracy if this is likely, I promise you he will say "yep".
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I've never really understood the point of it since if it's murder, it's murder. I know Dickey's not a fan of it either cuz it just doesn't seem necessary.

 

The point of felony murder is to have a more serious charge for someone who commits a felony, and while in the process, someone dies. Its not your typical murder. For instance, if you are shopping in a store and the guy next to you dies of a heart attack, obviously there is no crime. But if you shove a gun in the guy's face and he dies of a heart attack, thats where felony murder comes in. The bad guy didn't physically kill the guy, so 1st or 2nd degree intentional homicide isn't an option. I hope that clarifies it felony murder as opposed to intentional homicide ( i hope even more that you were talking about that in that statement otherwise i wasted everyone's time)

 

Cops tell suspects what they want them to confess to all the time, and guess what? People confess to things they dont do...all the time, even "smart" people. I graduated law school with a guy who was convicted of murder in Texas, mostly because the cops did terrible detective work and then went to work on this guy (who found the body) until he confessed. The Wisconsin Innocence Project got him out, and he graduated law school with me. So that being said, he could think it was self defense, but he is just a kid, and if he thinks the police think it is murder (which they do think, and it likely is) then he thinks it is murder and wants a deal to save his life.

 

The idea of confessing to something you didn't do, especially something as serious as murder, just baffles me. Short or torture, there is nothing a detective could say to me that would make me admit to that. This is still America, and as soon as you say "I will not answer any questions until I speak with a lawyer", theorhetically they cannot ask you anymore questions. Now I am not ignorant enough to believe most detectives will stop there, but I do believe if thats all you say, eventually you will be ok. If they do keep asking you questions, it violates your rights guarenteed in the constitution, and any confession should be thrown out.

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I guess I should have clarified a bit. I understand the point of felony murder, I should have just said I don't like it. Part of the reason is because it doesn't really matter who dies, as long as someone does. For instance, two guys could go into someone's house with the intent of burglary. They bring with them two unloaded guns, with the intent to just scare the owners if they are home. They enter the house and the owners are indeed home and one of them keeps a loaded gun for protection. The owner sees the men enter with the guns and shoots one of them, claiming self-defense. That man dies and his accomplice is charged with felony murder. There is no doubt that the guy is guilty of attempted burglary but I don't believe he should get an extra 15 years just because his partner died in the commission of the crime. After all, they had no intent to kill anyone, as their guns were not loaded.
This is Jack Burton in the Pork Chop Express, and I'm talkin' to whoever's listenin' out there.
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The idea of confessing to something you didn't do, especially something as serious as murder, just baffles me. Short or torture, there is nothing a detective could say to me that would make me admit to that. This is still America, and as soon as you say "I will not answer any questions until I speak with a lawyer", theorhetically they cannot ask you anymore questions. Now I am not ignorant enough to believe most detectives will stop there, but I do believe if thats all you say, eventually you will be ok. If they do keep asking you questions, it violates your rights guarenteed in the constitution, and any confession should be thrown out.

 

I really think you take for granted your education and life experience. Not all people know that they CAN ask for a lawyer. They defer to the police officer, because they trust that they will do what is right (i.e. just give you a lawyer if you are entitled to one, not make you ask). You also dont consider what it is like for an all-day or extended interrogation. After you have been deprived sleep and grilled for hours, and finally someone says to you, just sign this and you can go home, you sign it because, again, you trust them and next thing you know you are Christopher Ochoa.

 

Christopher Ochoa, Ochoa was a classmate of mine in law school. He also did 12 years in prison for a murder he didnt commit. He confessed after police convinced him they had enough to convict him. He was trying to avoid the death penalty. Also, amazingly enough as part of his deal the State wanted him to testify against another guy, and he did, and guess what, it was all a lie. The police bullied him into it. Gee, sounds a lot like this case.

 

So it happens. You can sit there and say that "it baffles you" that people would confess to murder, but it is the truth and it happens more often than you think. Im sure it also baffles you that people are born to crack addicts, or that people are discriminated against for being female or handicap, or that if baffles you that kids drop out of school when they grow up poor and with one parent.

 

"baffling" huh?
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So it happens. You can sit there and say that "it baffles you" that people would confess to murder, but it is the truth and it happens more often than you think. Im sure it also baffles you that people are born to crack addicts, or that people are discriminated against for being female or handicap, or that if baffles you that kids drop out of school when they grow up poor and with one parent.

 

This seems to be getting a little personal, and off topic here. You are making very uncalled for generalizations about me based on me saying that I don't understand why someone would confess to a murder they didn't commit. You go and claim i am denying discrimination and that people are "born to crack addicts" (not even sure what you are implying there)...i don't know, just seems a little over the top and unnecessary.

 

I am not going to comment on discrimination or crack addicts or kids dropping out school b/c it has no relevance to this topic. I feel bad for the guy, I really do. But I don't know, I guess I just still don't understand. I don't know if he was under arrest or not, he made it sound like he was at the pizza hut and they came in and asked to talk to him, not place him under arrest. I guess I do take my education for granted, but at this point I am not sure how anyone can not know their miranda rights. You have heard it probably a million times. Who here can't recite "you have the right to remain silent....anything you say can and will be used against you...yada yada yada." Just like i said in the other post, I am not denying that police sometimes use shady means to accomplish they're goal, but deception is allowed. There is nothing wrong with saying "we have enough evidence to put you away". My guess is if all you say is "I want to talk to a lawyer", eventually you will either talk to a lawyer, or be released.

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It wasnt meant as a personal attack of anything like that, just that it might baffle you simply because you have never been placed in that situation - similar to someone (not necessarily you) not understanding someone's plight who is born poor, of handicapped, or of different color etc.

 

As far as anyone being able to recite miranda rights, again, that is YOUR experience. So you watch a lot of movies and Law and Order, many dont, many also dont speak english well. Heck, one might be able to say that "anyone can recite Maroon 5 lyrics" but I dont know a single song they play, only that a band called Maroon exists.

 

There is a difference between police deception and coercing a confession. It might as simple as asking for a lawyer, but if you dont know you have that right and the police dont tell you, it isnt that easy. People trust the police, and an officer says "you have the right to an attorney" not "ask us for an attorney" or "we cant talk to you until you decline an attorney" etc. It can easily be construed that you have a right to an attorney, and when it becomes appropriate the police will provide you with on. Only the police dont, they pressure you and pinch you until they get what they want. Many times their instincts are correct and they are pinching the perp. However, it isnt uncommon for them to be wrong and trying to get a confession out of an innocent person. You and I live privileged lives, we have a good education, cable TV, etc. Those things we take for granted - and for those who dont have those things the police take advantage.

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Im sure it also baffles you that people are born to crack addicts, or that people are discriminated against for being female or handicap, or that if baffles you that kids drop out of school when they grow up poor and with one parent.

 

How is that not a personal attack? When you say "I'm sure that it also baffles you that...", you can't say that that wasn't directed specifically at me when it obviously was. I'm not looking for an apology or anything, just don't say something like that and then try to explain it with the phrase "not necessarily you".

 

As far as the comparision to Maroon 5 lyrics, thats just an absurd comparsion. First of all, Miranda Rights have been around since 1966, over 40 years. It's not that I have watched a lot of movies or law and order, its that anyone who has ever watched tv or gone to school past, say, 6th grade, or watched a law type movie, or been involved in the criminal justice system, etc, has more than likely heard them at least once. The Miranda rights are the most common, basic protection we have when we are arrested. And you're right, there is a big difference between deception and coercing a confession. But I'd like to know how saying "we know you did it" or "we have witnesses telling us you did it" is coercion. I see coercion as "Tell us you did it or we are going to make sure you're family is deported", something along that line. If they said that, then I don't blame the guy, but based on the interview, I didnt get the sense that it was anything like that.

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And also I'm sure a lot of people know the Miranda rights (i.e. the actual words) but they don't necessarily know what they mean. And I would have to agree that a lot of people think the police are "the good guys" and most of the time they are but when they believe they have the right person under arrest, they will do whatever they can to make sure they are convicted, which includes trying to get a confession and not providing a lawyer unless explicitly asked for one.
This is Jack Burton in the Pork Chop Express, and I'm talkin' to whoever's listenin' out there.
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Would "tell us you did it or you'll spend the rest of your life in prison" count as coercion? If you do you'll just get 20 years.

Would "tell us you did it or you'll get the death penalty" count as coercion? If you do you'll just get 40 years to life.

 

If not Maroon 5, then how about Beatles lyrics, they have been around since 1966 as well.

 

Deception toes the line on coercion. If you tell someone who is actually innocent (and that you have a hunch is guilty) that you have an eyewitness, a fingerprint, some bloody clothes that all point to the detained person and in reality you have none of that, and that you plan on asking for death penalty, but if you confess now we'll give you 20 years, some people are going to confess - and that isnt deception, that is intimidation and coercion. Deception is when you ACTUALLY have those things and you know or are 99% sure that the person is guilty BECAUSE of that evidence so you deceive them to try to get a confession, which will seal the deal at trial.

 

rawbecht summed it up better than I could. Yes, many or most know or can recite the Miranda rights, but few know what they actually mean. Also, if you arent guilty, you would probably be less likely to ask for a lawyer because 1.) you have nothing to hide (or at least believe you do not) and 2.) most people trust and believe the police officers - which they shouldnt. I dont think it is crazy, unrealistic or baffling that an innocent person with average IQ could be questioned about a crime, figure they were innocent and shouldnt have to ask for a lawyer and then when the you-know-what starts getting thick, trust the police to just assign them a lawyer when they are entitled to one.

 

My guess is that it would take a rather smart person or career criminal to be detained by police, interrogated and then have the knowledge and/or guts to tell the cops the either get him a lawyer (of if no Miranda Rights/no arrest) to let him walk out of the front door.

 

So to bring this full circle, I can see a scenario where DEF2 witnesses a struggle between DEF1 and VIC and it WAS self defense, but after a few hours of being grilled by the police and being told that he is going to spend the rest of his life in prison, no parole, no nada and that they have all the evidence to prove it - or the classic, "your buddy already told us that it was intentional" that DEF2 pleads guilty out of fear and to at least have a life after the age of 40 rather than get an automatic no questions asked life sentence and never get out again. I was just wondering, if DEF1 then goes to trial and a fact-finding jury finds that it was self defense, what sort of recourse or appeal rights the DEF2 has. It seems likely that the result is that DEF1 gets nothing or much less while DEF2 is punished.

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and most of the time they are but when they believe they have the right person under arrest, they will do whatever they can to make sure they are convicted, which includes trying to get a confession and not providing a lawyer unless explicitly asked for one.

 

You say it as though it is a bad thing. As a detective you gather evidence and with that evidence you find suspects. The problem only occurs if they are trying to get a confession from someone who they know did NOT commit the crime. The statement you cited above is simply a detective doing their job. If your family member were murdered, I'd be willing to guess you wouldn't be too happy if they were not doing all they could to make sure a suspect is convicted.

 

I'll give you the Beatles comparison, but only if 4 lines a of beatles song were played every single time someone got arrested in the past 42 years. I still think comparing the Miranda rights to a song is a little overboard.

 

Finally, it's been brought up numerous times here that, well, they trust the police to do whats right and they don't know what they're rights actually are. I don't know. As a U.S. citizen, you are guarenteed certain rights, but it is also your responsibilty to know what those rights are. Kind of like how ignorance is not a defense in crime, ignorance of the law isn't really an excuse for making a false confession. It is your responsibilty to know you have the right to an attorney, you can't expect the police to lay out all of your options for you when they suspect you of a crime. Their job is to get enough evidence for a conviction, not to hold your hand throughout the process.

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If DEF2 has already accepted a plea and DEF1 gets off on self-defense, then DEF2 will likely be stuck with his plea deal since he agreed to it. Once he is eligible for parole (if he is), the parole board will probably take that into consideration and release him. I suppose there may be other ways to get out (a pardon perhaps) but I would think that because he accepted a deal, it will stick. The police and some members of the public may still think that the original crime was murder and not self-defense and not want to see DEF2 get out just because a jury found that it was self-defense in DEF1's trial. So they (police, prosecutors, etc.) will do whatever they can to make sure DEF2 stays for the duration of his plea deal.
This is Jack Burton in the Pork Chop Express, and I'm talkin' to whoever's listenin' out there.
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So they (police, prosecutors, etc.) will do whatever they can to make sure DEF2 stays for the duration of his plea deal.

 

I'd like to know why you think that. Believe it or not, this isn't personal to most police and prosecutors. They are just doing a job. As far as doing what they can to make sure the guy stays in for the duration of his sentence, all they can do is answer questions from a parole officer in front of a parole board. Its not like they are investigating anything...their job is done.

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I don't know, I was thinking more along the lines of when they really believe that both guys committed a murder, DEF2 pled out but DEF1 got off on self-defense. In that case, I would think that they wouldn't just want DEF2 to get out just because DEF1 got self-defense.
This is Jack Burton in the Pork Chop Express, and I'm talkin' to whoever's listenin' out there.
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