The commission of a heinous crime violates the umbrella of public safety and makes people fearful. The horrific photographs in the newspaper, the reports on the television, and the spreading of rumors inflame our worse fears. Some crimes are so awful, we shudder. Who could have done such a terrible thing? Who is capable of this brutality and murder? We want revenge.  We want the guilty caught and punished to the fullest extent of the law.  People look to law enforcement to find the guilty parties and restore our sense of security. The police begin their investigation with a missing persons report. Search teams are formed and sent out. Blood hounds are enlisted to follow the scent. Interviews are conducted with those who saw the missing persons last. Traffic stops are made, neighborhood interviews are done… but the missing person is not found. Parents and relatives second guess themselves and their decisions. I should have told them to come straight home. They would have been safe now. Home with me, they say.

There is mounting pressure on the police to solve this crime and to do it quickly; their reputation is on the line. They respond the only way they can, which is to become more aggressive and cut corners to find out who could do such a terrible act.

Suddenly there is a break in the case. The body of the missing person is found. He or she is fully or partially naked and tied up with parts of their clothing. Sometimes, in their haste to find a perpetrator, the police overlook significant evidence or worse, destroy it. What is the cause of death? When was death caused? And why? Unfortunately little physical evidence is found. So much emphasis is placed on how the victim died and what was used to commit the crime, that little effort is made to identify motive. No one seeks forensic evidence to prove evidence of a sex crime, and no analysis is made of trace evidence such as a hair sample, skin under the fingernails, etc.

When interviewed, a few of the neighbors say, “Joe Jones (a fictitious name) could have done it.” A cursory background check reveals a dubious profile of Joe Jones.  He has had a few run ins with the law. He dropped out of school, joined a gang, and behaved in anti-social ways. This Joe Jones is approached, interviewed, and asked to aid in the investigation. He willingly agrees.  During the interview his picture is taken or he is placed in the back of a squad car for a one man line up with a so called witness. A photograph of Jones is shown around to others with the question, “Did you see this person near the scene of the crime?” The police asked for his help but have instead focused their investigation on him. Their objectivity has been compromised.

A second possible suspect is interviewed. This suspect was considered a low functioning student in school and was later found to have an I.Q of 72. He dropped out of high school and lived with his dad in a trailer near the crime scene.  With little or no evidence the police decide to “sweat the truth out of him.” He is interviewed for hours on end and told that they know he is responsible for the death of the victim. He panics and ultimately tells the police they want to hear – that he saw Joe Jones kill and sodomize the victim. He will later recant his testimony but it will do no good, even though neither the crime lab nor the autopsy results can verify that sodomy did occur. In fact, it didn’t.

But none of that matters. The community has nailed its perpetrator. Supposed evidence mounts daily. A fish filet knife found in a nearby lake is assumed to be an instrument of torture used on the victim. The victim’s cause of death was bludgeoning to the head. A branch found near the crime scene is not examined by the crime lab for evidence or to compare with the wounds on the victim’s head.

The suspect claimed to be innocent, but he was found guilty without any evidence except questionable witness testimony and a filet knife found in a lake. He was sentenced to life imprisonment. Did he kill the victim, or was the general public given a false sense of security by the arrest of this suspect? Did the police get it wrong?

Critical analysis of the statement provided by one of the supposed witnesses was found to be full of inconsistencies, and key points made in his recorded statement were not supported by the evidence. In fact, the victim was not sodomized. In fact, he was not tortured. The marks on the body were made post-mortem by animals searching for food.

The prosecution’s case was questionable and weak at best. Unfortunately, the jury had gleaned a good deal of information from news and television reports. There was strong sentiment to get the murders off the street, and it was a huge relief to the citizens that this crime had been “solved.” A witness who testified as an expert in occult and satanic practices was later found to have a degree from a diploma mill in California.

How did this happen? Simple.  Noone was watching.  Noone provided any oversight to the goings on in the investigation and during the trial. After the trial and years after the defendant had served more than a decade in jail, the case was over turned. Now there is only one fact: the victim is dead. And the original question remains unanswered. Who could have done such a thing?

Make certain when you defend your client that you hire a professional investigator to carefully analyze all the evidence and verify the credentials of any expert witnesses. Don’t let this happen to your client. For an in-depth discussion of this topic, contact Cadfael Investigative Group, Inc. at (763) 694-6086.