St.Louis Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch is subverting justice in Michael Brown case

October 4, 2014

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Good morning:

I write today to clarify the role of the prosecutor and grand jury in the Michael Brown murder investigation.

State grand juries have jurisdiction to investigate and charge people with state crimes committed within the county in which they are located. State or county prosecutors submit cases to them for consideration. Grand juries can also initiate their own investigations by subpoenaing witnesses, but they rarely do that.

Federal grand juries work the same way, but they deal with with federal crimes committed within the federal district in which they are located.

Jurisdiction to charge and prosecute drug offenses overlaps because both state and federal statutes have criminalized drug crimes. To avoid doubling up, the feds handle the more serious drug cases and the states handle the less serious ones. By seriousness, I am referring to the amount of drugs involved.

Jurisdiction rarely overlaps in murder cases because jurisdiction in murder cases depends on where the crime was committed. For example, the State of Missouri has jurisdiction to prosecute Darren Wilson for killing Michael Brown, but the feds do not since the shooting did not happen on federal property, such as a military base. But they would have jurisdiction to indict him for committing a hate crime or violating Michael Brown’s civil rights, since they have jurisdiction to charge those crimes wherever they are committed.

Federal prosecutors in the Central District of Florida, which is where George Zimmerman shot and killed an unarmed Trayvon Martin, apparently have decided not to seek an indictment charging Zimmerman with a hate crime or a civil rights violation.

A St.Louis County grand jury has jurisdiction to indict Darren Wilson because the shooting happened within that county.

There is no statute of limitations in murder cases. Therefore, if the grand jury’s term expires before it decides whether to indict Darren Wilson, a new grand jury can be convened to continue the investigation.

As I see it, St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch does not want to prosecute Darren Wilson for murdering Michael Brown, so he is deliberately dragging his feet to prevent the grand jury from indicting him.

I have reached that conclusion because I can think of no valid reason why Wilson has not been indicted. Approximately ten witnesses who do not know Brown, Wilson or each other have all described Wilson shooting Brown after Brown stopped running away, turned and raised his hands. No one described Brown bull-rushing Wilson, although one witness described Brown stumbling toward Wilson after being shot and dropping to the ground.

His body was 95 feet away from Wilson’s vehicle.

A grand jury need only find probable cause (i.e., reasonable grounds) to believe Wilson murdered Brown in order to indict Wilson.

Wilson should have been indicted weeks ago because there is far more evidence against him than is necessary to establish probable cause.

Our legal system is designed to have trials in cases like this so that the community can witness the legal process proceed toward a just result as we just witnessed in the Theodore Wafer and Michael Dunn cases.

Bob McCulloch is attempting to subvert that process and by doing so he is subverting justice.

The good people of Ferguson know what he is doing and they are expressing their dismay peacefully by public protest.

That could change, if he continues to subvert justice.

For more information on the role of grand juries, click on “grand jury” in the index of categories that appears in column on the right side of the web page.

If you like what we do, please consider making a donation.


Superintendent of Steubenville schools indicted for obstructing justice in rape case

November 25, 2013

Monday, November 25, 2013

Good afternoon:

BIG NEWS out of Ohio.

The New York Times is reporting:

Michael McVey, the superintendent of Steubenville City Schools in Ohio, was indicted by a grand jury on felony counts of obstructing justice and tampering with evidence. Three other adults, including an elementary school principal, were indicted on lesser charges.

“While this started out being about the kids, it is also just as much about the parents, about the grown-ups, about the adults,” said Mike DeWine, Ohio’s attorney general, in announcing the charges. “How do you hold kids accountable if you don’t hold the adults accountable?”

Check it out.


Analysis of the prosecution’s case against Philip Chism

November 22, 2013

Danvers High School ...item 1a.. Pictured: Boy, 14, 'caught on camera dragging teacher's body into woods' (23 October 2013) ...item 1b.. UPDATED: 16:55 EST, 21 November 2013 ...

Creative Commons on Flickr by Marsmettn Tallahassee

Friday, November 22, 2013

Good afternoon:

Go to this link to read the 9-page affidavit filed in support of the application for a search warrant in Philip Chism’s case. Warning: Contains graphic details.

Today I am going to analyze the prosecution’s case against Philip Chism and ask readers to indicate which of three alternative ways of proving first degree murder they would select, if they were to prosecute this case.

The prosecution is not limited to proving only one theory. Separate verdict forms can be submitted as to each alternative way of proving first degree murder. To convict him of first degree murder, the prosecution need only prove one alternative. Proving one, two or all three alternative methods of committing a crime only proves one crime and only one sentence may be imposed for that one crime.

Even though Philip Chism is only 14-years-old, he will be prosecuted as an adult because Massachusetts has a statute that mandates the prosecution as adults of all juveniles over the age of 13 who are charged with murder. If convicted, he cannot be sentenced to death because Massachusetts does not have a death penalty.

He also cannot be sentenced to life without possibility of parole (LWOP) because the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) has prohibited sentencing juveniles under the age of 16 to LWOP.

He cannot be prosecuted as an adult for the charges of aggravated rape and armed robbery unless the juvenile court declines jurisdiction. Therefore, he will have to be arraigned in juvenile court on those charges.

After the arraignment, the prosecutor will file a motion asking the juvenile court to decline jurisdiction and to transfer those two charges to adult court for adjudication on the grounds that, if convicted, the court lacks the resources to rehabilitate him before he turns 21 and the alleged crimes are an inextricable part of a single criminal episode that includes the murder over which the juvenile court lacks jurisdiction. Readers can reasonably expect the juvenile court will grant the prosecution’s request.

Philip Chism will be arraigned on the three charges in adult court. Pleas of not guilty will be entered on his behalf and his counsel will be provided with discovery.

Eventually, he will have to decide whether to go to trial and contest the charges or plead guilty.

Every defendant in a criminal case has a right to be presumed innocent and go to trial, even if he committed the crime(s) charged, and the jury must be instructed to return a verdict of not guilty as to each charge, if the prosecution fails to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt.

Given his confession that is confirmed by the videotape from a hallway camera showing him entering the women’s bathroom while wearing a jacket, hat and gloves and departing sometime after that with her body in a recycling bin, little doubt exists that he killed her while acting alone.

First degree murder in Massachusetts is defined by Chapter 265, Section 1 as:

Murder committed with deliberately premeditated malice aforethought, or with extreme atrocity or cruelty, or in the commission or attempted commission of a crime punishable with death or imprisonment for life, is murder in the first degree.

Notice that there are 3 ways to commit this crime:

(1) Murder committed with deliberately premeditated malice aforethought;

(2) Murder committed with extreme atrocity or cruelty; or

(3) Murder committed in the commission or attempted commission of a crime punishable with death or imprisonment for life.

Analysis of the statute

The prosecution may be able to prove that he committed the murder by each of the following three methods.

He came to school with a box cutter, balaklava ski mask, gloves and multiple changes of clothing strongly suggesting that he premeditated the murder with malice aforethought.

The second option does not require proof of intent to kill or premeditation, if the murder itself demonstrated extreme atrocity or cruelty. The use of a boxcutter to slash her throat from behind while gripping her hair and pulling her head back suggests extreme atrocity or cruelty as would the use of the box cutter ante mortem to penetrate and slash her vagina (see below).

The third option is a felony-murder rule that does not require proof of intent to kill or premeditation, if the murder occurred during the commission of a felony that can result in a life sentence. Aggravated rape and armed robbery are felonies that can result in life sentences, so a murder committed during the commission of either those felonies would be a first degree murder.

Aggravated rape requires proof of penetration of the vagina, no matter how slight, with the penis or finger(s), or an object and proof of the use of force or threatened use of force. Massachusetts defines penetration of the mouth or anus as “unnatural sexual intercourse.”

Proof beyond a reasonable doubt of any of the following three felonies will satisfy the use-of-force element:

(1) assault with a dangerous weapon; or

(2) robbery; or

(3) armed robbery.

According to the news report last night, the prosecution has alleged that he penetrated her vagina with an object. If the object is the box cutter used ante mortem, that would likely establish that the murder was committed with extreme atrocity or cruelty.

Her body was found in the woods supine with her legs spread and a tree branch inserted into her vagina. Since this staging occurred post mortem, it should not be considered as evidence establishing that the murder was committed with extreme atrocity or cruelty.

Police also found a note with the body that said, “I hate you all.”

If you were prosecuting this case, which alternative way of proving first degree murder would you choose (assuming you had to choose one)?

Or, which alternatives are the easiest and weakest to prove and why?

Here’s a link to a Boston Globe story about the affidavit.


Philip Chism indicted by grand jury today for first degree murder, aggravated rape and armed robbery

November 21, 2013

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Good evening:

A Massachusetts grand jury returned an indictment today against 14-year-old Philip Chism.

The Boston Globe has the story.

Philip D. Chism was indicted by an Essex County grand jury today on charges of first-degree murder, aggravated rape and armed robbery, according to Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett’s office. Chism allegedly attacked Ritzer when she stayed after school to talk with him about an upcoming exam, according to prosecutors and students who were in the building that day.

“The indictments returned today detail horrific and unspeakable acts,” Blodgett said in a statement. “This is the first step in a long process to secure justice for Ms. Ritzer and her family.”

/snip/

Chism allegedly sexually assaulted the victim with an object. The aggravated rape charge is brought when there was serious bodily harm or when the rape was committed during another violent felonious crime or both, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors also allege that Chism, armed with a box cutter, robbed the victim of credit cards, an iPhone, and her underwear.

Ugly, ugly crime.

This is our 765th post.


%d bloggers like this: