Articles Posted in Murder

INTRODUCTION

It was an eerie feeling. As I walked into Terminal 2 of the Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood Airport, just days after the horrific shooting, I was consumed with emotion. It hit me that I was in “The room where it happened.” (Yes, even when describing something dark and emotional, “Hamilton” references still flow out of me) There was an overwhelming presence of media and law enforcement both inside and outside of the terminal. I was headed to Minneapolis for an appearance in federal criminal court. My return flight on Delta Airlines into Fort Lauderdale was the exact one the shooter had taken just days earlier. This case still consumes me. I find myself frequently discussing it with friends and colleagues. I’ve chosen to write this article because I’ve found from my discussions that there’s a lot of misinformation concerning this case. Also, there are many wondering what will likely happen to the shooter, Esteban Santiago. To best be of service in this article, I’ve attempted to answer the most common questions that I believe are on the minds of most people at this time.

QUESTIONS

Imagine that a brutal rape and murder is committed. Shortly thereafter, an arrest is made. At the accused’s trial, the most significant piece of evidence comes from the prosecutor’s expert, who testifies, “The hair found at the murder crime scene matches perfectly to the hair sample taken from the defendant’s head.” Based primarily on that trial testimony, the accused is convicted and sent to death row. What if the testimony was later found to be “junk science?” What if that same expert provided similar testimony in numerous other trials involving defendants accused of similar violent offenses? Worse, what if numerous other “experts” provided similar flawed testimony in hundreds of other cases?

Unfortunately, the hypothetical described above is a reality. It was just revealed by both the FBI and Justice Department that for more than a two decade period before 2000, almost every “expert” in their forensic unit provided flawed testimony in just about every trial in which they provided evidence in criminal cases. They would systematically come into court and claim that they were certain that hairs found at the crime scene matched that of the defendants’. Additionally they bolstered their claims in front of the juries by citing incomplete or misleading statistics. 26 out of 28 FBI microscopic hair comparison “experts” are involved in this appalling scandal. Those examiners provided flawed testimony in 95% of the 268 criminal trials reviewed to date. The cases being reviewed by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Innocence Project include 32 people sentenced to execution. Of the 32 sentenced to death, 14 of those have already died in prison or have been executed. As many as 2500 cases could have been affected. It’s important to note that the bogus testimony wasn’t the sole evidence of guilt in all of the cases. Prosecutors and defense lawyers are examining each case individually to determine whether they may be dealing with an innocent defendant. Four defendants were already exonerated.

The question now is how will judges and prosecutors respond to this, one of our nation’s largest criminal justice scandals. The FBI and Justice Department claims that they are sparing no resources to ensure justice for those defendants affected by this. The FBI revealed that until 2012, there were no written standards governing the proper way for their “experts” to explain results while testifying in court.

I’ve been cringing a lot lately.  It seems most of the time when I hear folks, including so called “legal experts,” provide opinions concerning the Dunn murder trial, my body physically reacts.  I’m amazed at how many passionate and elegant speakers are disseminating misleading and even, inaccurate information concerning this “high profile” case.  I wanted to take a moment to provide you with my take on it.  There are some important lessons that can be learned.  Take what you like and leave the rest.

Lesson One

Trials aren’t about justice.  I subscribe to Aristotle’s definition of justice, which is, “Like cases being treated alike.”  Within a short period of time into my two decades in the criminal justice arena, I realized that there was no justice.  While that was the goal for some, I didn’t see that occurring as a rule.  The outcome of criminal cases hinges upon a myriad of factors.

Just hours before white supremacist serial killer Joseph Paul Franklin was scheduled to be killed via lethal injection, U.S. District Judge in Missouri, Nanette Laughreyin, granted stay of execution, citing concerns over Missouri’s new execution method.

Franklin is challenging Missouri’s drug choice of pentobarbital for the lethal injection procedure. He argues that the use of this drug violates his eighth amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment. The federal judge ruled that the lawsuit filed by Franklin and 20 other death row inmates challenging Missouri’s execution procedure must be resolved before Franklin is definitively put to death by lethal injection.

Franklin is allegedly responsible for murdering 22 people between 1977 and 1980. Franklin confessed to many murders and was convicted of eight murders total — two in Cincinnati, two in Salt Lake City, two in Madison, Wisconsin, one in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and another in St. Louis, Missouri.

On July 7 approximately a week after being married, Jordan Linn Graham was accused of murdering her husband by pushing him from a cliff. Graham did not report the incident when it occurred. She initially told police Johnson had left in a dark vehicle the night of July 7 with unknown friends. She later changed her story and told the interrogator that she lied but that Johnson’s death was an accident.

“I was afraid that they weren’t going to give me a chance to explain things and they were just gonna kind of put me in handcuffs and take me away right there and say that I had committed a crime or that I had planned this to kill somebody,” she said.

Her trial was postponed after prosecutors told her defense attorney they discovered new evidence that her husband was blindfolded before being pushed from the cliff. If the prosecution does in fact possess’ evidence that suggests her husband was blindfolded when pushed off the cliff, the government’s case for premeditation, first-degree murder becomes extremely strong. However, Graham’s defense attorney says that the prosecution has no evidence regarding the use of a blindfold. The defense attorney, however, still expresses that he is unprepared to continue for the trial scheduled for December.

Authorities charged 14-year-old Philip Chism Wednesday, with the murder of Colleen Ritzer. Ritzer’s body was found on Tuesday behind the school where she taught, after a search when she didn’t return home from work that day. All seven schools in the Boston town were closed Wednesday as a result of the investigation. It wasn’t clear why the district closed all of its schools after the discovery of Ritzer’s body.

Chism was arraigned Wednesday afternoon in Salem, Massachusetts. He is being charged with murder charge and was ordered to be held on no bond. Since Chism is underage, it is up to a grand jury to determine if he will be charged as an adult.

Authorities found Ritzer’s body after discovering blood in a second-floor bathroom of Danvers High School, where the 24-year-old taught math.

Florida authorities on Saturday evening arrested two convicted murderers, Charles Walker and Joseph Jenkins, who forged release documents and escaped from prison.

They were taken into custody at 6:40 p.m. at Panama City’s Coconut Grove Motor Inn. The two men appeared in court Sunday morning at the Bay County Courthouse in Panama City.

The state Department of Corrections who incorrectly released the two inmates said little about the arrests, however, they insist it was not their fault. Family members of both men spoke out requesting that they turn themselves in to authorities. Walker’s mother said, “We just want you to surrender yourself to someone you trust who will bring you back in safely.” Both families denied any knowledge of the escape and told investigators and reporters they first learned of the releases in telephone calls from the Franklin Correctional Institution informing them that they could pick up their family member.

Derek Medina, a Miami man shot and killed his wife, Jennifer Alonso, during an argument in August. He allegedly uploaded a picture of her dead body to his Facebook page. He has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and is now claiming self-defense. He claims, “I’m not a killer…I do not feel that I’m guilty and I feel like this was self-defense.”

Medina said they were having an argument in the bedroom when she started throwing things at him such as mascara, creams, boxes and shoes. During the argument, Medina pulled a gun on Alonso and told her to stop. He put the gun away and Alonso told him she was leaving him. When they walked downstairs, she began to punch him, he grabbed the gun again, she pulled a knife, he wrestled it out of her hands and put it in a drawer.

Medina claims that Alonso kept throwing punches at him. He told authorities that Alonso threatend to kill him with a knife, she said she would have someone kill him and as they continued to fight, he shot her 6-8 times.

By: Mark Eiglarsh

Zimmerman may have murdered Trayvon Martin. He may have been a profiling “wannabe cop” who was filled with “ill will, hatred and/or spite.” He may have approached Trayvon with his gun drawn. He may have even physically assaulted him before Trayvon punched him in the nose. Trayvon may have been legally standing his ground. Trayvon, may have reasonably feared death or great bodily harm and used force to defend himself against a guy that he not only reasonably found “creepy,” but potentially violent. Travyon may have been backing off of Zimmerman, legally retreating, when he was shot in cold blood. “Really?” Yes, “Really!” However, notice, each of the sentences above contains the words, “may have.” In the legal arena, we call that “speculation.” In this case, and in every single criminal case, the judge informs the jury: “A reasonable doubt is not a mere possible doubt, a speculative, imaginary or forced doubt.” Judges also instruct jurors: “It is to the evidence introduced in this trial, and to it alone, that you are to look for that proof.”

If one eliminates emotion, bias, and/or sympathy, which is not easy to do, and objectively analyzes the evidence presented in the Zimmerman trial, the only legal conclusion that can be reached is “Not Guilty.” In order to reach that conclusion, one would also need to follow the judge’s instruction that: “The case must not be decided for or against anyone because you feel sorry for anyone, or are angry at anyone.” It’s very easy to be angry with George Zimmerman. Candidly, initially I was. I still may be, subconsciously. Even by his own admission, his actions set in motion the killing of a teenager. Especially because two of my three young children are boys, I immediately felt compassion for the Martin family, (I still do) and had anger “in my heart” for Zimmerman. I’m human. I’m entitled to feel however I want. Feelings aside, I chose to objectively listen to the evidence throughout the trial and now passionately believe that anything other than an acquittal would be a miscarriage of justice.

New England Patriot’s Aaron Hernandez has been charged with premeditated murder. He has pleaded not guilty.

Carlos Ortiz told authorities about an apartment Hernandez has that not many people know of. He also told police that he and Hernandez stopped at the apartment the night after Lloyd’s death.

A search of Hernandez’ apartment revealed ammunition from the same caliber gun used in the murder of Odin Lloyd. Authorities found a .45-caliber ammunition and a white hooded sweatshirt; the bullet that killed Lloyd was from a .45-caliber gun, and the white sweatshirt matches one Hernandez was seen wearing on surveillance video on June 17, the night Lloyd died.