Tagarchief: felony murder

Obama’s empty promises

Yesterday Obama announced that he regretted not having closed Guantánamo Bay immediately after being elected in 2009 instead of postponing it. Too bad he admits it only just now after all those years. The men that were detained without trial for many years will never get back the lost time and will never forget the prison hell. One of the detainees is the British resident Shaker Aamer who has been in Guantánamo for thirteen years now even though he has been cleared by the government three times. He has never seen Faris, his son. Just imagine how it would be when it was yóur husband, yóur son, yóur brother who is innocent and is held by a nation that violates human rights but critizises other countries when they do the same.


Cruel torture methods like waterboarding, secret prisons, drones that kill innocent citizens, all-white jury’s that decide the fate of Afro-Americans in a country that has a lot of racist issues and where cops are often a bit too trigger-happy when Afro-Americans in ‘suspicious’ circumstances are concerned. Furthermore there are some bizarre and archaic laws like felony murder where people, often still adolescents, can be sentenced for life for a murder they didn’t commit. When I read the Dutch article¹ about Obama the names of Andy Worthington, investigative journalist, and Clive Stafford Smith, human rights lawyer, popped up in my head. Good to know that there are people that continue their tireless struggle against injustice. Today I want to thank them both for everything they did. People like them make the world a better place.
Marjelle

¹ Spijtoptant Obama: ‘Ik had Guantanamo Bay liever meteen gesloten’ HP/deTijd 19-03-2015
USA: 12 Years of Guantánamo detentions, 12 years of double standards Amnesty International

Photo Pixabay

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55 years for a murder they didn’t commit!

Last week on the Dr. Phil show I heard three boys talking about the burglary they had committed. My first thought was, well thousands of people commit burglaries all around the world every day, nothing new there. But this specific case was different. A short reconstruction: on the 3rd of October 2012 four boys between the age of 16-21 who are unarmed, break into a house in Elkhart, Indiana. The fifth boy, Levi, is waiting in the car. The boys first knock on the door to check if anyone is at home and when nobody responds they force their entry. On the hallway table are keys and a wallet. Suddenly they hear someone. They panic, flee into the bedroom and try to hide in a closet. The homeowner, who later declared he wasn’t afraid at the time, comes after them and shoots through the door several times. The bullets hit one boy in the thigh and kill another boy, Danzele, 21 years old.

That the boys, also known as the ‘Elkhart 4’, were guilty of an attempted burglary is something no one disputes. But because they were teens¹ and also unarmed you might expect a lighter sentence than what adults usually get for burglary. Then the story gets a bizarre turn. There is a law which says that if at the time of the crime someone is killed, the offenders – in this case the burglars – can be convicted for murder even if they didn’t pull the trigger (felony murder²). But contrary to what Sunny Hostin³ said to Dr. Phil, it was not a typical felony murder, because the boy that was killed was a co-perpetrator and not one of the victims or a third innocent party. What also didn’t help in this case was the US jury system. One of the jury members was on the show and every time he couldn’t come up with an answer he continued emphasizing the words ‘imminent danger’ like a mantra. Imagine that your fate depends on an average citizen with no knowledge of the law and filled with prejudices like you and me. The challenge is to be aware of your own prejudices and to overcome them, something a good judge is more able to do than a juror in my opinion.

What also struck me is that the defense which merely consisted of public defenders didn’t call for any witnesses to give some background information about the boys. Even the boys themselves were not heard. Furthermore, nobody questioned the actions of the homeowner. The fact that he shot unarmed teenagers who were running away and tried to hide from him, and while doing so injured one of them and killed another, was apparently considered to be a perfectly normal and legal act. Thanks to trial by jury – jurors can be easily influenced, they probably have good intentions but know nothing of legal matters – and a rattling legal system in Indiana that didn’t take into account the fact that three of the boys were adolescents at the time, and where archaic laws like felony murder have been wrongly4 interpreted, they were sentenced to 45-55 years in prison for a murder they did not commit. Welcome to America5.
Marjelle

Dr. Phil 17-01-2014 (on Dutch television: 08-08-2014)
The Elkhart 4: A Burglary Gone Wrong (part 1) abc NEWS 27-07-2014
The Elkhart 4: Should Teens Be Given 50-Year Prison Sentences? (part 2) abc NEWS 27-07-2014
Free the Elkhart 4.com
Three Elkhart teens appear on ‘Dr. Phil’ The Elkhart Truth 17-01-2014
Teen would-be burglars convicted of felony murder receive ‘extreme’ 50-year sentences for ‘crimes they didn’t commit’ The National Post of Canada 09-10-2013
The Elkhart Four and the Unjust Application of the Felony Murder
Rule on Teens
The Huffington Post 10-04-2013
Support Jose Quiroz Facebook 28-06-2014

¹ Adolescent development and brain science research show that, compared with adults, children and teenagers are less able to perceive and assess risks. The brain is fully grown at the age of 25.

² The felony murder statute in Indiana states the following: “A person who kills another human being while committing or attempting to commit arson, burglary, child molesting, consumer product tampering, criminal deviate conduct, kidnapping, rape, robbery, human trafficking, promotion of human trafficking, sexual trafficking of a minor or carjacking … commits murder, a felony.”
How then can it apply to the case of the Elkhart 4? The four boys did not kill Danzele Johnson, it was the homeowner that killed Danzele and he was not committing a felony according to the verdict.

³ Did Sunny Hostin make a huge mistake on Dr. Phil? We examine the case law that says she did! FreeTheElkhart4.com 18-01-2014

4 See also Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia decision, Davis v. Judge Fox and Sands The conclusion of the justices is that the majority of states in the US do not allow for felony murder prosecution when a co-perpetrator is the person who is killed.

5 My America – Interesting series of documentaries by Michiel Vos

55 jaar voor een moord die je niet gepleegd hebt!

Aan het begin van de Dr. Phil-show kwamen een aantal jongens aan het woord die een inbraak hadden gepleegd. So what, denk je dan, er breken duizenden mensen in, niets nieuws onder de zon. In dit geval waren er een paar bijzonder vreemde dingen aan de hand waardoor ik gefascineerd bleef kijken. Een korte reconstructie: ‘vier ongewapende jongens in de leeftijd van 16-21 jaar breken op 3 oktober 2012 in in een huis in Elkhart, Indiana. De vijfde jongen, Levi, blijft in de auto wachten. De jongens kloppen eerst op de voordeur om te verifiëren of er iemand thuis is en als niemand reageert forceren ze de toegang. Op de gangtafel liggen een portemonnee en sleutels. Opeens horen ze iemand. In paniek rennen ze weg en proberen in de slaapkamer een kast in te vluchten. De huiseigenaar, die later verklaarde niet bang te zijn, komt ze achterna en schiet meermalen op de kastdeur, getuige ook de kogelgaten. Daarbij wordt een van de vier jongens gewond en één gedood, Danzele van 21′.



Dat de jongens, beter bekend als de ‘Elkhart 4’, schuldig zijn aan inbraak is een feit. Mede gelet op hun leeftijd¹ en het feit dat ze ongewapend zijn zou je een veel lagere straf verwachten dan normaal voor inbraak geldt. Maar dan krijgt het verhaal een bizarre wending.  Er is namelijk een wet in Indiana die zegt dat als er ten tijde van een misdrijf iemand om het leven komt (‘felony murder’) de wetsovertreders, in dit geval dus de inbrekers, veroordeeld kunnen worden voor moord, zelfs al hebben zij de trekker niet overgehaald. Daarnaast kennen ze in Amerika ook juryrechtspraak. Een van de juryleden was in de show en papegaaide telkens als hij geen antwoord wist dat er sprake was van ‘imminent danger’. Stel je voor dat je lot afhangt van een gemiddelde burger die niets van rechtssystemen weet en kampt met vooroordelen zoals wij allemaal. De kunst is om je van die vooroordelen bewust te zijn en ik acht een rechter daar net iets meer toe in staat.

Wat ook opviel was dat de verdediging die voornamelijk uit pro-Deoadvocaten bestond geen getuigen had opgeroepen die iets meer over de jongens hadden kunnen vertellen en ook de jongens zelf kwamen niet aan bod. Verder werd er met geen woord gerept over de daden van de huiseigenaar, het feit dat hij het vuur opende op wegvluchtende inbrekers en daarbij een van hen verwondde en één doodschoot werd kennelijk beschouwd als volkomen legaal & normaal. Dankzij dit soort juryrechtspraak – juryleden die beïnvloedbaar zijn, wellicht goede bedoelingen hebben, maar zonder kennis van zaken – en een rammelend rechtssysteem dat geen enkele rekening houdt met de leeftijd van de vier jongens (16-18) en archaïsche wetten zoals deze, werden de tieners veroordeeld tot extreme gevangenisstraffen van 45 tot 55 jaar voor een moord die ze niet begaan hebben. Welcome to America².
Marjelle

“Alarmingly, a report from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International shows that approximately 26 percent of the 2,500 juveniles in the U.S. sentenced to life without parole received these sentences based on felony murder convictions. Though these children did not kill or intend to kill the victim, they have been sentenced to die behind bars.
(Uit: The Huffington Post 10-04-2013)

¹ Het brein is pas volgroeid vanaf 25 jaar
² My America – Interessante serie van Michiel Vos

Free the Elkhart 4.com
Dr. Phil
17-01-2014 (RTL 8-uitzending 08-08-2014)
Three Elkhart teens appear on ‘Dr. Phil’ The Elkhart Truth 17-01-2014
Teen would-be burglars convicted of felony murder receive ‘extreme’ 50-year sentences for ‘crimes they didn’t commit’ The National Post of Canada 09-10-2013
The Elkhart Four and the Unjust Application of the Felony Murder
Rule on Teens
The Huffington Post 10-04-2013