This is one of those stories from this year which would probably never happen in Boston. First of all, in Massachusetts, Murder in the First Degree carries a mandatory life sentence without parole. It leaves very little to work with when one is trying to make promises to suspects to “just tell the truth” and “I can get you out of here”.
At least, that is the way one would imagine it would work. The truth is that when police officers investigate a murder, they have usually already determined who they “like” for the charge. So, when they question their target, as we have discussed in the past, it is really merely an invitation to make statements that are inconsistent with their case (and therefore “lies” that the prosecution can use in court later. If they are really lucky, they might gain a confession from the unwary that can be used to nail the case closed rather quickly.
It is basically a “win-win” situation…at least until an experienced criminal defense attorney is brought into the picture…assuming one ever is.
But, I digress already.
I remember being asked to appear on Court TV years ago when the disappearance of Natalee Holloway came to light. Almost immediately, Joran van der Sloot (hereinafter, the “Defendant”) was the chief suspect. However, his dad had alot of power, advised sonny to shut his mouth, and he was free because of a lack of evidence shortly thereafter.
Dad’s not around now, and sonny has been talking.
Yes, it would appear that dad knew his son well because in the years since, the Defendant has made a habit of making statements about alleged misdeeds.
These days, the Defendant is an involuntary guest of the government of Peru, awaiting trial for another murder and robbery of a young woman, Stephany Flores. In Ms. Flores’ matter, the Defendant has confessed to the killing…indicating that he lost his temper when he found her using his computer to find out about the Holloway case.
Given the Defendant’s penchant toward talking, the mother of Natalee Holloway tried something unusual. She went to Peru to confront him.
The meeting was video-taped and relatively short. She pleaded with him to at least let her know the details of the killing, particularly where her body is. She even brought him the gift of a “Three Musketeers” candy bar, gift wrapped.
While the Defendant seemed to have learned the consequences of talking too much, he did make certain statements which, particularly for a trained prosecutor, could be interpreted as a semi-confession. However, there was no clear-cut confession so it is unlikely that the statements are likely to bring about a prosecution without more.
At the end of the interview, the Defendant indicated that he would write to Mrs. Holloway, probably via email, and that he felt he owed her at least that.
And then the two went their separate ways.
Holloway’s body has never been found, and no one has been charged in her disappearance.
A View From The Trenches:
The video that I found online seems to have been broadcast by Nancy Grace and CNN.
Now, I should admit up front that I am no fan of Ms. Grace. I find that she epitomizes much of what is really wrong, and indeed increasingly dangerous, in the criminal justice system. I have often indicated a desire to debate her on this.
She has yet to respond.
But, credit where credit is due. This was an interesting video to watch and, if she had anything to do with this creation, then, good for her…sort of.
The idea of having Mrs. Holloway confront the Defendant and try to get him to open up to her was a good one. Doing it with security all over the place, much less a video camera, was not quite as brilliant.
I am not an expert in the criminal procedure rules in Peru or Aruba (where Ms. Holloway is believed murdered). However, here in the good ol’ U.S., if an interview is conducted by someone acting as an agent of the police, it can be regarded as a custodial interrogation. Therefore, with the surrounding circumstances of this interview, it could potentially be precluded from evidence on that basis (again, depending on the rules in the particular jurisdiction).
More importantly to Mrs. Holloway, one would imagine that the Defendant would have been freer with his tongue in a more private setting. Here, it was not simply her and him, but actually her, him…and him…and…!
As mentioned above, he did make statements which could be interpreted to aid a prosecution…as does admitting to killing someone because they were looking for information about the Holloway case…so one can only wonder what might have been.
One sign, by the way, that he remained somewhat wary was his final reaction to the candy bar. Fearing that accepting it might “mean something”, he was sure to say that, if there were a hidden meaning, then he does not know what it is.”
“I was hoping you could tell me”, she said.
But who knows? That email could be coming any day now!
It is Christmas, after all…!
As for Mrs. Holloway, one can only imagine her anguish and, frankly, for her to make this attempt should be considered heroic. Further, I wonder if many people under those circumstances could have kept the even and compassionate tone which she did throughout the meeting.
In the meantime, if you are involved in a similar, or even dissimilar, criminal case, and would like to discuss it with me, please feel to call me to arrange a free initial consultation at 617-492-3000.
To view the original story, including a video of the meeting, mentioned in today’s blog is available for view at : http://www.aolnews.com/2010/12/28/top-crime-stories-of-2010/?icid=main%7Chtmlws-main-w%7Cdl1%7Csec1_lnk2%7C192418