Craig Michael Wood will be tried in Greene County by a Platte County jury

October 3, 2014

Friday, October 3, 2014

Good morning:

Due to substantial prejudicial pretrial publicity, Judge Dan Conklin granted a defense motion for a change of venue last week in the Craig Michael Wood case. Wood is charged with kidnapping, raping and murdering 10-year-old Hailey Owens in Springfield, Missouri last February. Prosecuting attorney Dan Patterson has filed a notice that he will seek the death penalty, if the jury convicts him.

Instead of moving the trial out of Springfield, which is in Greene County, Judge Conklin is going to try the case in Springfield with jurors from Platte County, which is just north of Kansas City. The defense and prosecution jointly proposed Platte County and Judge Conklin agreed to their proposal.

Platte County is one of the fastest growing areas in the metropolitan Kansas City area.

As Crane says, he could be tried on Mars with a Moon County jury and the result would be the same.

Ozarks First reports:

Several other motions were discussed at the hearing– all of which pertained to protective orders of evidence. This evidence includes autopsy photos, a purple folder with photos of four middle school students, pornographic writings with names matching two of those students, and child pornography.

“The protective order would restrict the defense to using the evidence only for this trial and only to share with individuals essential to trial preparation. With regard to any experts witnesses that are hired, they’d be informed that they are bound by the same order and they would be restricted from further duplicating or distributing the materials,” said Dan Patterson, Greene County Prosecuting Attorney.

The order would also prohibit Wood from possessing the evidence– permitting him to view it only in the presence of his legal team.

Orders like these are standard operating procedure in high publicity death penalty trials.

Wood has also been ordered to provide a handwriting exemplar to determine whether he can be identified as the author of some hand written pornographic stories that were seized by police when they searched his house.

The Fifth Amendment applies only to testimonial evidence, which is defined as, “Written or oral assertion offered as proof of truth in court. Includes hearsay and testimony.”

Handwriting is not testimonial evidence, so it is not protected by the Fifth Amendment.

He could refuse to supply a handwriting exemplar since a person cannot be physically forced to provide one, but if he does, his refusal would be admissible at trial against him. The wise choice in these circumstances, even if the likely conclusion will be that the defendant wrote the stories, is to provide the exemplar and retain an expert to challenge the scientific basis for graphology, assuming the evidence cannot be excluded by arguing that it is irrelevant or if it’s relevant, its prejudicial value outweighs its probative value.

We know nothing about the content of these stories, except that they allegedly contain child pornography.

If you were the judge, would you allow the jury to read the stories?

What factors would you consider in determining whether to admit or exclude the evidence?

Hints: Evidence rules 401, 402, 403, 404(b) and 702.

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Craig Michael Wood Preliminary Hearing

May 22, 2014

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Good afternoon:

The preliminary hearing is scheduled to start at 1 pm. I do not believe it will be televised or live streamed, so we are going to follow it on twitter. Unfortunately, that means we will be relying on descriptions of what is happening, rather than watching it ourselves.

A preliminary hearing is not a trial and no jury will be present. Do not expect Mr. Wood to testify because defendants almost never do.

The purpose of a preliminary hearing is to have a judge consider evidence presented by a prosecutor, cross examined by defense counsel, and determine whether there is probable cause to believe that the defendant committed the crimes charged. The rules of evidence are relaxed and hearsay is admissible.

If the judge decides there is probable cause as to each charge, the case will continue.

If the judge decides one or more charges are not supported by probable cause, that charge or charges will be dismissed without prejudice, which means the prosecutor can recharge the defendant, if he gets more evidence.

So, pop some corn, settle back and read the tweets and comments.

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Craig Michael Wood preliminary hearing today at 1 pm

May 22, 2014

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Good morning:

The Craig Michael Wood preliminary hearing is scheduled to start at 1 pm. Apparently, there will not be any live stream coverage, so we will be covering it on twitter.

For more information, read my previous articles:

Did Craig Michael Wood give a false confession in Hailey Owens case?

Rape and sodomy charges added against Craig Wood

Could the prosecution’s case against Craig Wood be derailed by a warrantless search?

Greene County prosecutor may seek death penalty for Craig Wood

This is our 1040th post.


Did Craig Michael Wood give a false confession in Hailey Owens case

May 19, 2014

Monday, May 19, 2014

Good morning:

Craig Michael Wood is scheduled for a preliminary hearing on Thursday, May 22nd. The hearing was originally scheduled for April 24th, but the judge reset the hearing at the request of Wood’s attorneys because they wanted additional time to consider two new charges added by the prosecution to the three original charges: first degree murder, kidnapping and armed criminal action.

The two new charges are rape and sodomy. The prosecutor said they are based on recently available information obtained at the autopsy.

As most of my regular readers know, Wood is accused of kidnapping 10-year-old Hailey Owens as she was walking home. There appears to be no doubt that he is guilty because neighbors witnessed the abduction and described the kidnapper’s pickup truck, including providing a license plate number. Police used that plate to identify the registered owner, who turned out to be Wood’s father and he provided them with Wood’s address. They found her dead body a few hours later in the basement of Wood’s home. She had been shot in the back of the head.

I believe all of us suspected a sexual motive for the abduction and the addition of the two charges confirms our worst suspicions. Wood has apparently confessed to the crime, but his statement has not been released to the public.

Because this will almost certainly be a death penalty case, the court has appointed Patrick J. Berrigan and Thomas Jaquinot to represent Wood. Berrigan and Jaquinot are death-penalty lawyers who work for the Capital Division of the Missouri Public Defenders Office. Berrigan has considerable experience handling death cases and an excellent reputation.

They have filed a motion to exclude Wood’s statement asserting that he was drunk, drugged and mentally ill when police took him into custody, that they failed to advise him that he had a right to remain silent and refuse to answer their questions, that they ignored his request to consult with counsel before answering their questions and that they coerced him into providing a statement by promising they would go easy on him, if he cooperated and told them the truth.

Assuming for the sake of argument that the assertions are true, the statement would be inadmissible because it was involuntary and obtained in violation of the Miranda rule.

Whenever the prosecution seeks to use a defendant’s confession against him to prove guilt, one should immediately consider whether the confession contains truthful information. As the video at the beginning of this article demonstrates, false confessions are a reality and one of the causes of wrongful convictions of innocent people.

While the evidence against Mr. Wood appears to be substantial, I recommend against assuming he is guilty. For example, eyewitness identifications are notoriously unreliable and we do not know if someone else might have been involved. Forensic fraud is another major cause of wrongful convictions as are police and prosecutorial misconduct.

Therefore, watch the video and let’s see if there is any evidence that he was coerced into confessing to a crime he did not commit.

Finally, “The System with Joe Berlinger,” which premiered last night on Al Jazeera America, will explore the complexities of the U.S. criminal justice system in an eight-part series that uses real cases to question the effectiveness of laws. Looks to be an excellent documentary. Check it out.

Donations have been few and far between this month. We know times are tough and people are struggling to make ends meet because we are in the same situation. Unless you cannot afford it, please make a donation, if you appreciate our efforts to teach and keep you informed.

Fred


Rape and sodomy charges added against Craig Wood

April 22, 2014

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Good afternoon:

The Kansas City Star is reporting today that the prosecution has amended the complaint against Craig Wood adding rape and sodomy charges. Because of this new development, the defense will be asking for a continuance of the preliminary hearing that is set for Thursday.

The prosecution claims that it will not be introducing any of his statements at the preliminary hearing, so the motion to suppress his statements is moot and should be denied.

Horrific case just got much worse.


Craig Michael Wood moves to exclude confession that he killed Hailey Owens

April 19, 2014

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Good morning:

I write today to update readers regarding Craig Michael Wood, 46, who is charged with kidnapping and murdering 10-year-old Hailey Owens in Springfield, MO. I have three new facts to report:

(1) He has new counsel who are experienced death penalty lawyers;

(2) Hailey Owens was sexually assaulted; and

(3) He confessed to police.

Wood has a preliminary hearing scheduled for Thursday, April 24th. The purpose of the hearing is to determine whether probable cause exists to support the charges.

The test for probable cause is whether the evidence introduced at the hearing would warrant a reasonable person to believe that the defendant committed the crimes charged. Judges rarely dismiss charges at preliminary hearings and I expect no deviation from that practice on Thursday. A finding of probable cause will permit the State to keep Wood in custody until a grand jury indicts him. The indictment will set forth the final set of charges.

Defense attorneys usually have not received any discovery before preliminary hearings, so they use them to discover information about the prosecution’s case and lock witnesses into their testimony.

Because child welfare records obtained pursuant to a state FOIA request by the News Leader reveal that Hailey Owens was sexually assaulted, I am expecting the defense will inquire into that subject matter.

I also expect the grand jury indictment will contain a sexual assault charge.

Although the prosecuting attorney, Dan Patterson, has not announced whether he will seek the death penalty, I do not believe there is any doubt whether he will do so. The case is too egregious not to seek it because, if a state is going to have a death penalty, it’s going to use it to execute people who kidnap, sexually assault and murder a child.

Because this will almost certainly be a death penalty case, the court has appointed Patrick J. Berrigan and Thomas Jaquinot to represent Wood. Berrigan and Jaquinot are death-penalty lawyers who work for the Capital Division of the Missouri Public Defenders Office. Berrigan has considerable experience handling death cases and an excellent reputation.

They have already done something unusual that suggests they are diligent and know what they are doing. Yesterday, they filed a motion to suppress (exclude) Wood’s statements to police. The motion is not unusual, but the timing certainly is. These motions are typically filed after indictment, but before trial. I have never seen a motion to suppress filed before indictment and scheduled to be considered at the preliminary hearing.

Do not be surprised if the judge declines to consider it on the ground that he is not a circuit court judge and lacks the authority to do so. If he does consider it, I doubt there is any chance he will grant it, assuming he wants to keep his job.

However, he may permit defense inquiry far beyond the permissible scope of inquiry in a normal preliminary hearing where the scope of inquiry is limited to whether probable cause exists. I suspect that is the real reason defense counsel filed the motion. If so, it was a brilliant move to not only broaden the scope of inquiry, but to lock police witnesses into their testimony about what Wood said and the circumstances that existed when he said it.

Defense counsel assert in the motion that Wood was drunk, drugged and mentally ill when police took him into custody, that they failed to advise him that he had a right to remain silent and refuse to answer their questions, that they ignored his request to consult with counsel before answering their questions and that they coerced him into providing a statement by promising they would go easy on him, if he cooperated and told them the truth.

Assuming for the sake of argument that the assertions are true, the statement would be inadmissible because it was involuntary and obtained in violation of the Miranda rule.

We have been watching Gerrie Nel, an excellent prosecutor, and now we are going to have an opportunity on Thursday to watch an excellent death penalty lawyer, Patrick Berrigan.

You will not want to miss this hearing, so please join us for the live stream on Thursday and check-in with us each day between now and then for updates and reports on other cases.

If you appreciate what we do and have not yet made a donation for this month, please do so today. You will not find more knowledgeable in depth no-nonsense coverage of legal matters anywhere else on the internet.

Thank you,

Fred


Craig Wood preliminary hearing April 2nd at 9 am

March 15, 2014

Saturday, March 15, 2014.

Good evening:

The court scheduled a preliminary hearing for Craig Michael Wood on Wednesday, April 2nd at 9 am.

Although a judge has already reviewed the lead detective’s affidavit summarizing the evidence against Mr. Wood at his initial appearance after his arrest and determined that probable cause (i.e., reasonable grounds) exists to believe that he committed the crimes charged in the complaint, Mr. Wood has a right to revisit the probable cause issue at a preliminary hearing.

A preliminary hearing is not a trial. The hearing will be before a judge without a jury and the rules of evidence will be relaxed.

The issue the judge must decide is the same. That is whether probable cause exists to believe Mr. Wood committed the crimes charged in the complaint. The difference is that the decision must be based on the evidence presented at the hearing by the prosecution, as opposed to the initial appearance when no witnesses testified and the judge based his decision on reviewing the affidavit for probable cause.

Since hearsay is admissible at a preliminary hearing, prosecutors generally call only a few witnesses. In most cases they only call the lead detective who wrote the affidavit for probable cause. He or she is placed under oath and answers the prosecutor’s questions.

The defense gets to cross examine the witness after the prosecution finishes the direct exam.

Defense counsel know they are unlikely to win a probable cause argument, so they use cross examination to discover potential vulnerabilities in the prosecution’s case and to lock the witness down on any facts that may be favorable to the client’s case.

Therefore, you will often hear the prosecutor object to the relevance of any question asked by defense counsel that is not probative of probable cause.

I have already written about a potential vulnerability in the prosecution’s case regarding the first entry into Mr. Wood’s house. He was not present and they apparently did not have a search warrant. They may have lacked probable cause to believe she was in the house and their safety sweep of the premises may have exceeded the limited scope of a safety check.

Questions regarding that subject matter would likely trigger a relevancy objection, since the sole issue before the judge will be whether probable cause supports the charges, not whether police unlawfully entered the house.

Do not be surprised, however, if the grand jury returns an indictment against Mr. Wood before the preliminary hearing. Should that happen, the grand jury would have already determined that probable cause supports the charges in the indictment and there would no longer be any need for a preliminary hearing.

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Donations are lagging. We work hard to keep you informed by filling in the blanks between the lines. After 30 years in the trenches, I am familiar with all of the rules and strategies prosecutors and defense counsel utilize. Experience counts and most of my predictions have been accurate.

Adjusting and fine tuning to dial in the white fear and racist corruption frequencies in the Florida courts took some doing, but I am on track now.

If you appreciate what we do, please make a donation.

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Fred


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