An accomplice to a crime, even if they were at home during the illegal act, can be charged with the same felony offenses that the person who actually committed the crime is. This means that if your spouse, acquaintance, friend, or family member commits a murder, and law enforcement not only believes that you knew about their plans but also helped them plan or knowingly carry out the murder, you too can be tried for homicide. An accomplice, called a principal in the first degree under state 777.011, will be convicted and punished as if they committed the physical crime themselves.
Mother Convicted of Being Accomplice to Kidnapping-Turned-Murder
A famous case that involved a victim being buried alive in a box and held for ransom ended with the male suspect, who was a small time drug dealer, and his girlfriend both being charged for murder when the man suffocated due to lack of airflow in his coffin-like confinement. As reported by the Chicago Tribune, the boyfriend, who planned and carried out the kidnapping, did not tell his girlfriend about his plans, though he did use her for transportation to and from the crime scenes. When both were detained by police and questioned, the girlfriend initially lied for her boyfriend, and in so doing hurt her chances of being set free. During the trial, citizens from the small rural town gave false accounts of seeing her out and about helping her boyfriend plan the kidnapping and the ransom, which led the jury to believe that she knew all along about his plans. During an investigation by the Tribune years afterwards, an investigation that used FBI surveillance and reports, it was discovered that these witness statements were inaccurate, and that she did not have any knowledge about her boyfriend’s plans, nor did she knowingly assist in any of the planning as stated by local witnesses. However, this discovery was too little too late, as she is currently serving life in prison without parole, while her boyfriend was given the death penalty. There were massive errors made in court that lead to her wrongful conviction according to the Tribune, including the fact that prosecutors:
- Twisted testimony;
- Glossed over key facts; and
- Ignored contradictory evidence in order to build their case against her.
Jurors picked apart her character, believing that a mother like her should not have been living with a known small time drug dealer. She seemed callus in court when her attorneys told her not to worry about being found guilty, and jurors thought that there was no way that she could have been so naive as to her boyfriend’s plans. Add to this the fact that witnesses statements are oftentimes completely inaccurate, and an innocent person was sentenced to life.
How a West Palm Beach Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help
In order for you to be charged with a crime as an accomplice, law enforcement must believe that you were helping the other defendant knowingly. An experienced attorney can help collect the evidence that proves that you did not know about the crime, and while you may have been unwittingly involved, you were not doing so without intent. Call the Skier Law Firm today for experienced, aggressive, and thorough criminal defense.