Life without parole.


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Sato Ord
July 13, 2008, 12:06 PM
I've been looking into going back to school this fall. I will take classes that will get me a degree in forensic science of some sort, with the end goal to possibly get a PhD in forensic anthropology. To this end I have started doing some pro-bono work for at least one criminal defense attorney.

She brought me a case that is about three years old, but is now coming to a head because her client was only recently picked up on an unrelated charge in Philadelphia and extradited back to Florida.

The case is nothing earth shattering. Criminal on criminal violence. Her client, and his partner killed a small time drug dealer while attempting to rob him at his home.

The victim was shot four times. The weapons used were a 38sp and 9mm. Her client claims to have pulled the trigger on the 9mm, and that the other BG did the up close execution style shooting with the 38. The weapons were never recovered.

As I told her, there was no good news for her client. I was able, using the autopsy report and photos of both the body and crime scene, to prove that the first, second, and fourth shots came from the same weapon. (There was not enough left of the bullets to positively identify them as coming from any specific weapon and the report stated that it was impossible to determine which bullets were 38 and which were 9mm.

One 9mm casing was found at the scene, and this upstanding member of criminal society was definitely not bright enough to police his brass. The first shot (to the lower spine) is what brought the man down, unable to do more than try to crawl away from his attackers. The second shot, obviously fired from the same direction as the first, went through the man's right shoulder from front to back, making him pitch forward as his arm collapsed. The third shot, fired from a completely different angle, entered at the right shoulder (coincidentally almost going through the same entrance wound as the second shot) and traveled down through the chest from right to left, bisecting the pulmonary vein. While the third shot would have been fatal, it was fired from some distance away. The fourth shot, fired up close and personal, was instantly fatal. It entered the back as the victim was on the ground, his knees drawn up under him, and his shoulders down attempting to get up and run. It was fired from less than twelve inches away and directly behind, (just like shots one and two). It entered at the level of t-12 and deflected off the spine and traveled along the spine and entered the skull through the foramen magnum. It then traveled through the brain and lodged against the inside of the skull at about the hair line.

What I was able to show does not, in any way, exonerate the client, but it was enough to plea bargain for life without parole instead of the death penalty, which was what he was hoping for.

Now, I'm not calling this a win for either side. I fully believe that the little scum bag is just as guilty as his partner. However, the defense attorney is being paid to do her best for her client, and I am called on to interpret the facts as presented. The State Attorney is happy to get this case closed and put the guy away now rather than go through the expense of a death penalty trial. Therefore, everyone is happy.

It's just darn cool to do this kind of work and I'm hoping to do some more in the future.

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Acera
July 13, 2008, 01:03 PM
You are very lucky to totally enjoy your profession. That makes for a lot of other things in life being easier.

Good Story,

romma
July 13, 2008, 01:08 PM
Isay it is too bad that they both can't get the chair...

But that's my opinion. Congrats on your pursuit of an exciting career!!

dogtown tom
July 13, 2008, 04:01 PM
Other than powder residue at the point of entry on the fatal shot, how can you tell what the order of shots was?

General Geoff
July 13, 2008, 04:12 PM
Probably from the amount of blood coming from the entry wounds; the lower the blood pressure, the less blood flow (and clotting) there will be, at subsequent wounds.


Of course I could be entirely wrong. *shrug*

H088
July 13, 2008, 04:15 PM
Criminals killing criminals? Seems like they did the world a service,

sacp81170a
July 13, 2008, 04:25 PM
The State Attorney is happy to get this case closed and put the guy away now rather than go through the expense of a death penalty trial.

I don't want to hijack your thread because it's very interesting, but you've put your finger on the reason I think the death penalty needs to be reformed in this country. If the little scum bag really did it and admits it, why would there be a need for a lengthy and expensive appeals process for the death penalty? The taxpayers are the ones who pay for it, so we as a society need to fish or cut bait on this one. Either shorten the appeals process or do away with the death penalty and sentence them to life w/o parole. If you do that, they should lose all their rights, even the right to sit in the prison law library and research new and creative lawsuits to file against the state, again paid for by the taxpayer.

I prefer the death penalty under an accelerated process if there is an admission of guilt.

There was not enough left of the bullets to positively identify them as coming from any specific weapon and the report stated that it was impossible to determine which bullets were 38 and which were 9mm.

Hmm, so I guess a ballistic database would have served no discernible purpose in this case, except to drain millions from a state's budget. Wonder why the anti's think they're a good idea?

NG VI
July 13, 2008, 04:26 PM
Too bad the two partners weren't hit and bled out by return fire. That would have been a true victory for justice. It's almost a good thing that many dealers carry.

Glad the dude is going to be in prison forever though, they belong there.

armoredman
July 13, 2008, 05:23 PM
Life without parole is a bad idea. Every day a criminal is behind bars he plots to escape, or other heinous acts inside the wire. I have seen too many escape, wreak havok and death before being recaptured. Any criminal who is so dangerous to society that he or she can never be reformed, (which is what what life without parole means),rather than afford him/her with more opportunities to escape and reoffend, execute them in a timely and humane manner. Otherwise the system is meaningless.

guitarhero323
July 13, 2008, 05:54 PM
well thank you for this post sir as i am a teen and am going to add this to my list of possible jobs, and near the top i might add.

SageMonkey
July 13, 2008, 06:14 PM
They ought to both get the chair, or better yet just hang. They killed someone in a robbery and there seems no dispute of that.

But you did your job, despite them being human scum the defendants have a right to council who will try to get them out of trouble, as best as they may.

La Pistoletta
July 13, 2008, 06:15 PM
Darn, I read the thread title as "Life without people" and got all hyped up about it. :p

Sato Ord
July 13, 2008, 07:12 PM
To answer a couple of good questions...

The order of the shots wasn't too hard to determine. The first shot is what brought the guy down. Straight in from behind. It broke his lumbar spine and partially immobilized the him. The next two shots are most likely in sequence, but it is possible that the shot from the 9mm was fired before the .38 round went through the shoulder. From the blood evidence they hit at nearly the same time, so, like I said, it's possible I put the order wrong on those two, but that's a moot point because they still prove that the 9mm was fired from a distance, and off to the victim's right side, during the victim's struggle to get away. The last shot was pretty obvious from the powder burns and angle of entry.

I can be sure that three of the shots were fired by the .38 because of two reasons. One is that only one 9mm casing was found. If the 9mm had fired the three shots there would have been three empty casings. Also the witness, the victim's girl friend, was pretty sure of the order of the shots from the slight difference in the sounds. She is "almost sure" (her words) of the order and that the sound of the third shot was slightly different than the other three.

How I can tell that the person who fired the .38 was the one who did the actual execution is because of the angle of the shots fired. Three were from directly behind the victim and one was from the side. Also, the person firing the 9mm would have had to be standing more to the side not only because of the point of entry and the path of hte bullet, but because of where the spent casing ended up; in the swimming pool, which would have been on his right side from the area he had to fire from to inflict that wound.

As for the State Attorney being willing to plea bargain, not much I can say about that. By Florida law the guy is, as strictly interpreted, just as guilty as his partner. I get the feeling that because it's an election year the prosecutor is willing to take the plea rather than tie the whole thing up until some time next year - after the elections are over. This way it is still a win for him. I mentioned that this is a three year old homicide. the other BG is already on death row: his trial took months and he is now awaiting automatic appeals that the state pays for. This case is cold and witnesses would have to be brought in three years after the fact.

Also, what I haven't mentioned about this was that there was a third perp, the driver of the car they traveled to the house in. He is the one who cut the initial deal and turned states evidence, so, a lot of the case hinges on the testimony of a junkie who is also a friend of the victim, and another junkie (the victim's girlfriend) who was in the dark house when the attack took place. Two witnesses can make a strong case if they are reliable, but this time the State Attorney would probably rather not have to go into a court room in a capitol case that is so dependent on the testimony of two people who will be seen as unreliable.

As far as bullet data bases go, they are nice when you actually get a slug that can be identified. However, unlike television shows like CSI, most bullets that are pulled out of bodies are too far gone for completely accurate ballistics matching. I won't even get into why ballistic fingerprinting is one of the most asinine things that Brady Bunch has backed in recent years. Let's stick to the facts of real criminal investigation, not flights of fantasy. If you have a good bullet recovered from a body (not the most likely scenario when lead starts rebounding off of bones and other structures inside the human body) and you have found the weapon, and can positively link that weapon to the suspect, you still have to prove that he/she actually pulled the trigger.

However, if you have good criminal investigation going on, and the body hasn't been moved before the pictures were taken, and you have a good autopsy report, you can figure out a lot about where each person - perp and vic- were standing/lying as it all went down.

In this case we had good scene preservation before the body was moved, good photos, and some good work regarding angle of entry and bullet path from the medical examiner. Often the person doing the autopsy, if not used to working murders, can destroy a lot of information by rushing through the procedure because the cause of death is so obvious: the path of the bullet once it enters the flesh, if properly preserved during the autopsy, can give a lot of vital clues to the reconstruction of the events leading up to death. I ended up wading through more photos of the autopsy itself than I expected and that made my job a lot easier.

This is the kind of thing I hope to work with in the future. I love doing the reconstruction type of detective work. Taking the photos and the other information available and rebuilding the event from the beginning. It may sound a bit morbid, but I find wading through autopsy, and crime scene photos, as well as other evidence, to be fascinating. Hopefully, in the future, I will be able to do this to help put the bad guys away and not help them get a lighter sentence.

Of course, if it were me, I'd rather get the needle than spend the rest of my life in a cage, so maybe I did help get this guy what he deserves.

rainbowbob
July 13, 2008, 07:27 PM
I prefer the death penalty under an accelerated process if there is an admission of guilt.

The most likely way to obtain a confession is to take the death penalty off the table in a plea bargain. A confession and a guilty plea can save tax-payers millions in trial and appeal costs.

As much as they do not deserve to breath our air - life without parole can be the most effective and least expensive way to rid society of these vermin.

revjen45
July 13, 2008, 07:39 PM
If Dahmer had been sentenced to death he would still be alive, and lawyers would still be making their Mercedes payments belching over it.

Heartless_Conservative
July 13, 2008, 07:47 PM
Quote:
I prefer the death penalty under an accelerated process if there is an admission of guilt.

The most likely way to obtain a confession is to take the death penalty off the table in a plea bargain. A confession and a guilty plea can save tax-payers millions in trial and appeal costs.

As much as they do not deserve to breath our air - life without parole can be the most effective and least expensive way to rid society of these vermin.

That and I'd say that a large part of people's resistence to the death penalty is the fact that even an obstensibly cut and dry case can still catch the wrong guy (especially in jurisdictions with 'creative' law enforcement), and life w/o parole and nigh endless appeals assauges peoples fear of executing innocence men (although I'd say that the chances of that happening are somewhat inflated by some capital punishment opponents).

Atla
July 13, 2008, 08:15 PM
During my internship with a criminal defense attorney I spent the entire summer working on one high profile murder case.

These three crackheads were buying coke from a college kid, and when he came over to collect some owed money they duck-taped his mouth and nose and beat him while he suffocated. Than put his body in the trunk, drove it out of town, and tries to torch it.

It's interesting stuff, especially the forensics.

cambeul41
July 13, 2008, 08:28 PM
Maybe this is buried elsewhere, but is this really what you mean?


death penalty, which was what he was hoping for.

arflattop
July 14, 2008, 12:42 AM
Sato Ord, congrats on finding a worthwhile career that you love. You are truly blessed. Best of luck!

sqlbullet
July 14, 2008, 11:03 AM
I spent a year working as a correctional officer while going to school. It was a meaningful experience which changed several of my previous views. One was my attitude about "locking them up and throwing away the key".

49 of the fifty states have corrections departments. Hawaii has a corrections division within the public safety department. Note the title: corrections. These are not penal institutions, and the sentences are not punitive in nature. The purpose of our prisons is to reform criminals so they can rejoin society.

Life without the possibility of parole flies in the face of this goal. And, the statistics in the state where I worked show this sentence to create a dangerous class of criminal which is difficult to manage in an incarceration facility.

Don't mis-understand, I agree there are people who will never adhere to the behavior norms of our society. These people must be dealt with. But, if we are certain they cannot be reformed, they should be sent down the path of execution. Otherwise, they should have some option of review and release in the future.

CallMeIshmael
July 14, 2008, 11:37 AM
What are we wasting time for? Somebody get a rope!

Hook686
July 14, 2008, 12:01 PM
Even if we still had the money, instead of blowing a trillion in the Middle East, I doubt Americans would be willing to spend money to increase police forces, courts, jails/prisions & staff, Justice Department staff and basic response times using tax payer monies. So many were in favor of invading Iraq, with all those costs, so few seem willing to address the same issues in this country.

Why do you thinkthis is so ?

Jeff White
July 14, 2008, 12:05 PM
It's really a shame that an interesting and on topic discussion of forensics has veered into an off topic discussion on penology and the death penalty....

Jeff

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