Do you think you have been having a bad week?
Well, you are invited to compare yours to that of 43-year-old Jose Luis Tejada (hereinafter, the “Defendant”) of Lawrence. As the third anniversary of his shooting his girlfriend and two kids (Labor Day, 2011) approaches, his Salem murder trial has ended. After deliberating five hours, the jury found him guilty. On Tuesday, he was sentenced to three consecutive life sentences.
Judge Howard Whitehead presided over the trial in Salem Superior Court and, at the sentencing hearing, called the killings “barbaric and evil”. Three family members of the deceased mother and teens also gave emotional impact statements to the court.
The Defendant apparently tried his hand at explaining his anticipated defense to the police around the time of his arrest…as so many soon-to-be-convicted suspects do. It would seem that it was sort of a sympathetic self-defense theory of some kind.
Police say the Defendant told investigators that he had done the killings because he was tired of them shouting at him. He also explained that he had originally tried to shoot himself too…but he had run out of bullets.
In case you had any question, neither “I killed them to shut them up” nor “I would have killed myself too out of grief, but I had pumped so many bullets into the victims that there were none left for me” are not recognized legal defenses,
Attorney Sam’s Take On Announcing Your Defense Strategy To Law Enforcement Prior To Engaging An Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney
We have discussed this type of situation many time in the past.
Many people, upon being confronted by law enforcement believe that they can help themselves by simply agreeing to talk to the police instead of exercising their rights to counsel and to remain silent.
By law, the police must give Miranda warnings in custodial situations. That being true, don’t you think those warnings must be something kind of important?
“Well, I can understand if the police come in and start confronting you at a murder scene, and if you did it, that being the case, Sam. But what if you know that you have not done anything wrong? Isn’t it best to just explain the situation to the officers?”
While one answer to this question will not necessarily apply to all cases…no.
There are several problems with “coming clean” with the police alone and without the benefit of counsel.
First and foremost, you should not assume that the police are going to believe you. Quite often, the police have an interest in not believing you. Not that they want to prosecute innocent people, but they tend to jump to all kinds of conclusions and those conclusions are seldom complimentary to a suspect.
Your interrogation is unlikely to be geared toward exoneration. Your words are likely to be twisted and I have not yet met a person who is always consistent, no matter how honest they are. One little misstep, however innocent, can aid the argument to a jury that you are a liar and guilty of whatever offense you have been accused.
Secondly, many people do not truly understand the intricacies of criminal law and the elements of crimes. Police officers are, by law, allowed to lie to you in order to get you to incriminate yourself. Sometimes people think they can outsmart the prosecution in advance. I have had clients who think that a case against them in which they accused of hitting someone with their left fist will be dismissed because they actually had hit the person with their right fist.
Sometimes folks think that not knowing the law is a defense. It isn’t.
So, am I saying that one should never cooperate with law enforcement? Of course not. However, particularly if you are being suspected of having committed a crime, my suggestion is that you politely explain that you want to consult an attorney before you speak to them. They have to let you.
“Won’t that anger the police or make them think I am guilty?”
They may act that way because, let’s face it, they would rather you not have counsel who might interfere with their strengthening their case against you. But most officers understand that it is a wise thing to do…innocent or guilty.
Given that investigating officers bring a wealth of experience in questioning and trying to solve crimes, and they likely know their scenario they are looking to prove, wouldn’t it make sense to get someone knowledgeable in these areas on your side since you have none of these?
For the full story upon which this blog is based, please go to: http://bostonherald.com/news_opinion/local_coverage/2014/08/man_gets_life_in_deaths_of_girlfriend_2_children and http://www.eagletribune.com/news/article_e29d2e0a-2d2a-11e4-8b43-001a4bcf887a.html