Have you heard the one about the professor who is accused of killing three colleagues at the University of Alabama on Friday? They say that Amy B., 44, (hereinafter, the “Defendant”) had been a professor there since 2003. But did you know that she had come from Boston where she had other…lawyer-necessary problems?
The Defendant has made national news since last week. It would appear that she had a difference of opinion at a faculty meeting. They saw her as not tenure material. In response, she saw them as targets. At the end of the faculty meeting, she allegedly opened fire, killing three colleagues and wounding three others.
Of course, this is not the first time she has been connected with weapons in the eyes of law enforcement.
For example, in 1986, she is said to have shot her brother in the back. He died. And the charge of homicide? Well, a State Police investigation report has been released that shows that they had determined that the shooting was merely an accident.
I’ve seen people convicted for lesser accidents!
Anyway, the next episode of the Defendant’s suspicious relationship with violence took place at Harvard Medical School in 1993.
You see, Dr. Paul R., (hereinafter, the “Recipient”) Had just returned home to Newton from a vacation in the Caribbean and was opening his mail. Opening a long, thin package., he noticed wires and a cylinder inside. He and his wife ran from the house and called police.
The package contained two 6-inch pipe bombs connected to two nine-volt batteries.
A federal investigation ensued. As part of said investigation, the Defendant and her husband were questioned . As it turns out, the Defendant, then a Harvard postdoctoral fellow, had been working in the human biochemistry lab at Children’s Hospital.
Guess who was her supervisor?
You got it. The Recipient. And, wouldn’t you know it, the Defendant had allegedly been concerned she was about to get a negative evaluation from him on her doctorate work.
The fact that she had shot and killed her brother did not exactly ease the concern of investigators, so they conducted a search of her home and found an interesting item. It was a draft of a novel she had apparently been writing.
The storyline? It was apparently a nice little story about a female scientist who had killed her brother and was hoping to make amends by becoming a great scientist, according to a person who was briefed on the investigation and spoke to the Boston Globe on the condition of anonymity.
Also interviewed was a lab technician who had worked with the Defendant at the time. She claimed that the Defendant had been in a dispute with the Recipient shortly before the bombs were sent.
All suspicions aside, The United States Attorney’s office did not seek any charges against the Defendant. To date, no one was ever charged with mailing the bombs to the Recipient.
Could it be that this is the Defendant’s third strike and that she is now out…of liberty?
I often hear pro-prosecution types tell me that “Where this is smoke, there is fire.” Under that reasoning, I may as well stay home on the day of my clients’ trials because, if they had any prior convictions, they just gotta be guilty as charged now.
In my experience, it does not always work that way. In fact, we have safeguards in the system to try to guard against the undue prejudice bringing in evidence of past convictions in many trials.
“So, what are you telling us, Sam? That the previous two incidents will never be used by the prosecution in trying the Defendant in this shooting?”
I never say “never” when it comes to the justice system. However, it is quite unlikely that any jury will be made aware of them. You see, in those cases, there are not only no convictions, but no actual prosecutions. Plenty of suspicion, of course, but that really does not make it admissible.
“But can’t otherwise inadmissible evidence sometimes be revealed to a jury for other reasons…such as showing motive or identity?”
Yes, and I suppose an argument could be made that the prior incidents, particularly the sending of the bombs, should be admitted because they show that, when her career seems in jeapardy, the Defendant gets…explosive. However, she was never even charged in that crime. That’s going to make any such argument fail…unless things change.
When the Defendant’s lawyer gets into the case, he or she had best keep a sharp eye out for any movement by law enforcement to find a way to introduce these prior events. This includes a rush to finish the investigations and get a quick conviction.
That is, assuming the attorney is experienced enough to recognize the threat.
You see, that is why someone who faces such serious crimes wants an experienced criminal defense attorney. There are many procdural and evidentiary rules involved in these cases and, sometimes, a keen instinct is what makes the difference.
That takes experience.
Take it from a criminal defense attorney with a quarter century of experience in the criminal justice trenches.
If you wish to discuss a case with me, please feel free to contact me at 617-492-3000.
To read the original story upon which today’s blog was based, please visit the website http://www.boston.com/news/local/breaking_news/2010/02/ala_slay_suspec.html