Many of you have probably read about the King brothers, 14 and 13, accused of killing their father. (See the articles on CourtTV, linked on the home page). What is facinating is that the prosecutor also prosecuted another guy for the murder, and the verdict in that case is sealed until the trial is done in this one.
It's and either/or deal. Either the boys did it or this other guy did it, and the prosecutor is trying both separately. So what happens if separate juries find everyone guilty under independent and mutually exclusive theories?
Seems to me Codder and Stokes can introduce whatever evidence may have convicted Chavis as an alternative theory without the jury needing to know how the other jurors resolved the prior case. Obviously the Kings get no jeopardy claim from the fact that Chavis was prosecuted (especially if he was acquitted) but maybe "collateral collateral estoppel" applies, and I agree with the judge that their due process rights are not implicated by what happened in another case. The fact that the judge refused to allow Chavis to be prosecuted on an accessory theory doesn't mean the Kings should not be prosecuted. In the end, though, you may have conflicting verdicts (i.e., jury A found Chavis struck the fatal blows and Jury B found one or both Kings were taking batting practice). Obviously one verdict is wrong, but can either set of defendants claim their verdict became irrational just because a different jury saw things differently? Should the prosecution be permitted to argue what it believes to be the truth at the second trial-- sure. Should it have been permitted to argue something it apparently didn't believe at the Chavis trial-- i'm not so sure. My question is, how do you conduct a public trial and still manage to "seal" a verdict? Maybe jury B acquits the boys (thinking the prosecution should be bound by what it argued first) and the verdict of jury A is overturned upon appeal (based on the conflicting evidence introduced by the State at trial B). Thus, no one is guilty. Have to wonder why the Chavis case was tried first though.
Wasn't there a murder case a few years ago (in Houston?) where the state presented mutually exclusive theories of criminal liability against the two defendants? As I recall the cases were tried in different court rooms at the same time. I believe the CCA said OK?
Posts: 723 | Location: Fort Worth, TX, USA | Registered: July 30, 2002
A prosecutor's duty is "not to gain convictions, but to see that justice is done." How can he say he takes that duty seriously if he prosecutes two defendants for the same crime under mutually exclusive theories?
Maybe the appellate courts, the legal ethics people, etc. say it's OK, but I think it stinks. I believe a prosecutor should not prosecute a defendant unless he would also convict if he was the judge or jury hearing the case.
Since the State proved Terry was killed by use of a weapon, and the jury found he was killed in some other way, is the verdict supported by the evidence? Can the judge sentence as though a weapon were used? Just curious.
So Judge Bell ultimately determines that even though the jury verdict may be rational, it should not be permitted to stand because the jurors said that they really convicted the boys as accomplices rather than principals (contrary to the Chavis jury)and it was too "unusual and bizarre" to let the prosecution get away with simultaneously arguing 2 different theories. So the answer really is no one is guilty (except perhaps the prosecution). The judge may encourage the prosecutors to work out a deal, but seems to me that having taken three strikes without connecting, the State is likely out.
Maybe mediation in criminal cases should be tried more often. In this case it accomplished what two jury trials couldn't. We now know for sure that Derek is the "most" guilty party. CNN tonite also provided me with the first opportunity to really judge Mr. Rimmer. He explained that he never tried Chavis on any theory than as having encouraged the boys to kill their father. Thus, the media seems to have been inaccurate in portraying the trials as involving conflicting theories of liability. Rimmer also explained that Chavis was tried separately so the Kings could be called as witnesses against him (I do not know if they were or what they said, but other than the timing of the two trials, it seems to make sense). One thing I also thought I heard him say was that he had confessions from the boys prior to their trial. If that's true, I hadn't heard it before. Looks like the prosecution wanted a sealed verdict because jury B might misconstrue it (since they probably wouldn't understand how one person could swing the bat but 3 persons be guilty of murder).
[This message was edited by Martin Peterson on 11-15-02 at .]
So now these 2 "misunderstood" kids have pled guilty to murdering their dad with a baseball bat. Apparently after the judge threw out the original jury verdict (another bizarre Law & Order moment)everyone struck a deal where the kids get 7 or 8 years in juvi prison. The boys were required as part of their plea to write out some sort of judicial confession, and they said "I hit my dad in the head with a baseball bat." Can't get much clearer than that. Their molester, Mr. Chavis, still has to go on trial for "lacivious acts with a minor." How come we can't have cool titles for our crimes with words like "lacivious" or "meritritious"?
The most ridiculous part of this whole case is now Rosie O'Donnell has hired a team of lawyers to represent the mother of these kids. So here's the woman who gave them up for foster care, and wasn't involved in their lives while they were living in this environment with dad and the molester coming out of the woodwork in defense of her kids.
Posts: 514 | Location: austin, tx, usa | Registered: July 02, 2001
I think it has been established that it is legally permissible to prosecute under mutually exclusive theories, but the bigger question is: should you do it? I come down on the side of no. There are many cases, particularly those with multiple co-defendants, when the evidence is conflicting as to who did what. But I think it is our duty to decide what we believe and work to establish that theory. Prosecutors in general took a big public relations hit with this case in Florida. I generally don't do something in a case if it doesn't feel right. This just doesn't feel right.
Posts: 283 | Location: Montague, Texas, USA | Registered: January 26, 2001
There is no doubt the way the case was portrayed by the media caused prosecutors to take a hit. But it now appears to me there were no mutually exclusive theories of the killing involved. Chavis would have been prosecuted as a "party", i.e., as one who aided or encouraged another, and Derek as the bat handler and his brother as another party to the offense. The prosecution seems to have been remiss in damage control, but not unethical. The prosecutor said he never believed nor presented evidence to support the idea that Chavis directly caused the death of Terry King.