On October 30th, 2009 an article appeared on our Blog describing a capital crime in Mississippi. A capital crime is any crime that carries either a life sentence or the possibility of the death sentence. Incidentally, in the Clarion Ledger on the same day there was a article on a capital murder case that went to trial Jackson County, MS. The murder took place in Moss Point, Ms. The District Attorney through an Indictment alleged that a 16 year old boy robbed and murdered a man when he stopped at a gas station. The article did not get into all of the factual details but the jury did not return a conviction of capital murder. The jury returned a verdict of murder. As I explained yesterday in the article, a person must be committing one of several crimes and cause a death to be guilty of capital murder. Simply killing someone does not subject a person to the death penalty. So in the news article the 16 year old boy was found guilty of murder which means the jury did not believe that he was committing a robbery. This young man will now be sentenced to life in the state penitentiary and he will not be eligible for parole until he was 65 years of age. In other words this 16 year old boy will not spend over 40 years in prison for something that he did which cannot be taken back and I suspect he regrets. It is very sad to witness crimes that are so senseless. The family of the man murdered and the family of this 16 year old boy are the ones who will also suffer.
This also brings up another good point that I wrote on yesterday on this Blog. The 16 year old boy will be entitled to an appeal to the Mississippi Supreme Court. The Court will review his case for factual and legal errors to make sure he his trial was conducted fairly, properly, and in accordance with the Constitution and Fundamental Fairness. Though I hear people complain about appeals, they are absolutely necessary to ensure that our system of justice remains fundamentally fair. I think we have a unique and wonderful system of justice in America. The concepts that control our system of justice are second to none. However, our system is administered by people, and as always, people will bring to the justice system bias, prejudice, and some measure of unfairness. A full and fair system of appeals is essential-no critical for any system of justice. In the past decade there have been approximately 220 people freed from prison after years of incarceration for crimes they did not commit. These men and women were freed through the use of DNA evidence. I think we have to ask ourselves as a society, how did they men and women get convicted in the first place? What led to such an egregious error in a system that is designed to have so many safeguards?
Our system of justice have safeguards yet these safeguards often fail. There are many different reasons for the failure. The studies that are being conducted in this area have shown that eye witness testimony accounts for many of the errors in the legal system. Eye witness testimony is an integral part of the justice system. We cannot ever disregard or throw out eye witness testimony yet it is probably the most unreliable testimony that is available and used in our court system. There are so many factors that can affect eye witness. Studies are highlighting these factors and the Court systems around the country have been slow to respond to the new research in spite of the errors in convictions. Over time as we discover more innocent people who were sent to prison I hope these new social studies positively affect how we operate the justice system in America and lead to new safeguards.
Merrida Coxwell is a partner at Coxwell & Associates, a law firm comprised of five lawyers who are experienced in their fields of law. Four of the attorneys handle serious accident and injury cases, criminal cases, financial fraud, and limited trial litigation. Frank Coxwell is the sole partner who handles consumer bankruptcy, debtor creditor, and other consumer issues. For a free consultation call 601.848.1600.
Disclaimer: This blog is intended as general information purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Anyone with a legal problem should consult a lawyer immediately.