In the daily Boston Criminal Lawyer Blog, I have often warned against making statements to try to either outsmart or rationalize when law enforcement comes a-calling investigating you for a crime. Often, by the time this happens, their “search for the truth” is over and it is just a question of building a case.
Unfortunately for Ronnie P. , 26, (hereinafter, the “Defendant”), I began this daily blog in 2008. It was too late to help him in his time of need, which was in 2007. On the other hand, it might not have made any difference. In his case, it was he who went to the police to turn himself in. Well, kind of. He told the police that he may have stabbed 36-year-old William L, 36 (hereinafter, the “Deceased”) to death.
He found he had guessed correctly as he led the police to the Deceased’s home, where lay his dead blood-stained body. He had been stabbed multiple times and his throat was slashed according to police reports.
The Defendant was i charged with second-degree murder and faces a maximum possible sentence of life in prison. The trial has been occurring this week.
State prosecutors and police officers maintain the Defendant came to the Cape Coral Police Department and admitted to stabbing the Deceased multiple times during a struggle, during which the Defendant said he thought the Deceased had a loaded gun.
It’s not like the Defendant was not also injured. He had suffered a bite to his thumb, an abrasion to the left side of his body and a cut across the heel of his foot as a result of the altercation.
Sounds like the type of wounds the police call “defensive wounds”.
Detectives quickly booked Perez on murder charges and processed the scene for evidence, as well as the Defendant’s house, they testified Wednesday.
Assistant State Attorney Ed Ferguson told the jury , “When we’re done with this, you’re going to see not only that this crime was proven, and that [the Deceased] was dead … we’re going to show that it was done by the criminal act of [the Defendant]…It’s way beyond self-defense. Just the acts themselves are going to indicate indifference to human life itself.”
In court, Cape officers Albert Arroyo, Mike Catania and Ishmael Perez testified that they were the first to come into contact with the Defendant at the police station in the early morning hours following the altercation that lead to the Deceased’s death. The Defendant, speaking primarily Spanish, used officer Ishmael Perez as a translator, the officers said.
“He told me he killed somebody last night,” Perez told jurors. “So I asked him, ‘Where did this happen?’ and he gave us an address.”
The officers said when they arrived at the Deceased’s home, they found the Defendant’s white Mustang convertible in the driveway next to a truck, and what were likely blood droplets staining the driveway by the Defendant’s driver’s side door, the walkway to the main entrance and the doorknob into the home.
When they entered the home, they said they found the Deceased’s body in the garage and called EMS to the scene. Forensics and investigative services were also notified of what they had found.
Cape detective Kurtis Grau testified that DNA swabs and photographs were taken of the Defendant during the investigation, and that he formally placed the Defendant under arrest and booked him into the Lee County Jail.
Forensic technicians photographed the home and collected evidence, including a pellet gun found atop a refrigerator in the garage and a knife stained in what was likely blood, discovered by detective Christy Jo Ellis, they testified.
Forensic technicians John Dahowski and Frank Williams testified to finding what they thought were drops of blood in the kitchen, living room and outside the home, staining doorknobs and items in different areas of the home. There were also bloody footprints on the carpeting of the master bedroom and in the garage.
Williams said the Defendant’s car keys were found between the cushions of a loveseat, and a pornographic DVD was found in the living room DVD player, both of which were taken into evidence.
A blood-stained comforter was found at the Deceased’s home in an outside trash can, said CCPD Forensics Supervisor Larry Stringham.
Hmm. Looks like the Defendant did a good job of convicting himself, doesn’t it?
“No!” is the message from his attorney. The Defendant’s lawyer has already told the jury that the evidence in the case is untrustworthy, the state’s arguments are riddled with buzzwords, [the Deceased] was inebriated and high on drugs the night he was killed, and the crime scene was possibly even manipulated. In short, the Defendant, the lawyer told the jury, is not a murderer.
“There’s no issue about who killed Mr. Lowell,” said the lawyer. “But not every killing is a murder. I submit to you, (the state)’s evidence isn’t what they claim.”
…and on the trial goes.
Attorney Sam’s Take:
First of all, Massachusetts murder cases do not carry the potential of a death penalty. There is no such penalty in state court, although there is in federal court. You may have noted the Defendant’s argument about the drug use of the Deceased. Such activity is also not punishable by the death penalty, so it is of little help…except for one remaining defense for the Defendant who had turned himself in.
Clearly, that defense is what is known as “self-defense”.
One would imagine that this is what the defense is in this case. However, there are a couple of problems already apparent.
First of all, if you are going to make a confession, make a confession. “I may have stabbed someone to death” indicates not being sure. Usually, if you are holding a knife with which you just witnessed yourself stab someone multiple times, as well as slash his throat, and that person is lying there, not breathing, in a growing puddle of his own blood…I think it is safe to say you stabbed him. Probably to death.
In other words, hedging your bets on the confession does not help. Either confess or don’t. I tend to go for “don’t”…but, I’m one of those nasty animals called a criminal defense attorney.
The biggest problem with the self defense argument in this case is what was not found at the scene. There is no indication that there was a real gun. A pellet gun does not suffice…especially when it is not on or around the alleged attacker. In fact, thert is no indication that there was any weapon used by the Deceased.
Other findings, such as the blood-drenched comforter, the cushions of the sofa, and the porn dvd bring other questions in the matter which we will not examine here.
Self-defense has its limits. First of all, one is only allowed to use force that is equal to that which is being used against him. In other words, if someone comes at you with a pencil, you are not allowed to grab a sub-machine gun and blow him away.
Most notably is that the threat has to be real and present. “I thought he had a gun” does not work. The Defendant, upon learning there is no gun, cannot simply say, “Oh, sorry. I was wrong. Come on…get up.”
Self-defense is not a guessing game. So, today’s advice is going to sound somewhat familiar if you are one of my daily readers.
If you have found yourself either the focus of a criminal investigation or having committed a crime, you are best off not coming up with the legal theory yourself and run off to turn yourself in. Unless you are an experienced criminal defense attorney…I would suggest you contact one as soon as possible.
Life imprisonment is a very long time.
Have a good, safe and law-abiding weekend!
The full article of this story can be found at http://www.cape-coral-daily-breeze.com/page/content.detail/id/503569.html?nav=5011