Monday, February 4, 2013
Congratulations to the Baltimore Ravens and their fans for winning the Super Bowl.
I have some important matters to attend to today that will take me away from the blog until this evening.
I begin with five quick comments about the deaths of Chris Kyle, the former Navy Seal, his friend, gun trolls and the right wing hate fest over the weekend.
I end with a short post inspired by Looneydoone. It’s about the difference between an accomplice and an accessory after the fact. I also discuss the duress defense and how these legal terms might apply to any residents of the RTL in the Trayvon Martin murder case. This discussion is a follow-up to yesterday’s post, Why Did John (W6) Lie to the Police?
A. Chris Kyle, Gun Trolls and the Right Wing Hate Fest
First, I extend my condolences to Chris Kyles’s family and friends and to his friend’s family and friends.
Second, I believe Chris Kyle and his friend made a very serious mistake when they invited the shooter to go to the shooting range, knowing when they did so that he was suffering from PTSD. That seems like the equivalent of playing Russian Roulette. Poor judgment by the victims contributed to this tragedy and that is a powerful mitigating factor that must be considered.
Third, I believe that a murder charge is not appropriate, if as I suspect, the shooter was experiencing a flashback and did not realize that he was killing his friends. This appears to be a diminished capacity situation that is both a potential defense and a powerful mitigating factor that also must be considered.
Fourth, the incredible right-wing tsunami of nasty, hateful and disgusting filth that exploded on twitter over the weekend in response to Clara Jeffrey’s rather mild post at Mother Jones about the shooting, stands as a memorial to hate speech and a vivid reminder that these people are crazy and dangerous.
The sick people who spewed hate and wallowed in their foul excrement this weekend are not unknown to us. They speak with the same voice as the racists who daily demonize and denigrate Trayvon Martin, his family and all who seek Justice for Trayvon.
They are an abomination among us.
Federal and state law enforcement should focus on identifying, prosecuting, convicting and imprisoning them when they step over the line because they are real terrorists and it’s only a matter of time before they take to the streets with their precious guns and start killing people like you and me.
Instead of stripping WWII veterans and grandmothers in wheelchairs at airports to keep us safe, law enforcement needs to get its shit together and go after the real terrorists.
I will step down from my soapbox now.
B. Accomplice and Accessory-After-the-Fact Liability, the Duress Defense and the Felony-Murder Rule
Looneydoone posted this question at 8:13 am today:
“Might those who made calls to alert the fogen of Trayvon’s whereabouts be considered accessories?
I ask, because a friend was murdered during a botched kidnapping for ransom last year. To date, 8 persons have been arrested, and are being held on $10 million bond (each). Not all 8 were present when the attempted kidnapping took place, but were involved with tracking my friend’s whereabouts.
You asked an excellent question.
First, please accept my condolences for the loss your friend.
To be an accomplice to a crime, a person has to specifically intend to assist another person to commit that crime. The crime charged in Trayvon’s case is a murder and there would have to be evidence that the other people knew he intended to kill Trayvon and assisted him to do so.
In W6’s case, for example, the prosecution would have to show that he knew the defendant intended to kill Trayvon and he assisted him to do so by telling him where he was. This sounds like the scenario in the case that you mentioned.
An accomplice is guilty of the same crime and subject to the same sentence as the actual perpetrator.
If “all” that W6 did was to provide a false story to support the defendant’s claim of self-defense, he would have acted as an accessory after the fact by assisting him to get away with murder. This crime is less serious with a shorter sentence.
W6 would have a defense to the accessory charge, if he told the false story because the defendant threatened to kill him if he did not. This is an example of the duress defense.
Duress is an affirmative defense (i.e., defendant admits he committed the unlawful act with intent to do so, but claims he only did it because he was forced or threatened with harm, if he did not).
Duress is a defense to every crime except murder.
Finally, there is an issue in your friend’s case regarding whether any of the participants can be charged with murder, since killing your friend was unintentional.
Pursuant to the felony-murder rule, a person can be charged with first degree (i.e., premeditated) murder, even if he did not intend to kill the victim, if the victim died during the commission of a first degree felony. Kidnapping is a felony and kidnapping someone by using a deadly weapon or firearm is first degree kidnapping. Therefore, accomplices can be charged with first degree murder.