Norman Raja was the first Florida officer convicted of an on-duty shooting in over 30 years when he was convicted for the shooting death of Corey Jones, a motorist whose car had broken down. He was convicted of murder and sentenced to 25 years behind bars. After his first appeal was denied, Raja is appealing to the state Supreme Court, although it’s not given that the Court will agree to hear his case.
However, Raja faces an uphill battle. Suspicion fell on the officer after an audio recording disproved specific statements he made about the incident. Raja claimed that Jones had come after him with a gun, Raja fired on Jones six times, but it was never clear why. Other than the fact that Raja lied, there was no obvious reason for the shooting.
Raja was convicted on charges of both manslaughter and first-degree murder which his attorney claims violates double jeopardy. You cannot (necessarily) be charged twice for the same crime. You can, however, be charged separately for certain elements of the same crime. In this case, Raja does have a strong point. You just don’t see folks convicted of both manslaughter and first-degree murder in the same trial. However, this is exactly what happened to both Raja and Derek Chauvin, who was charged with second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter.
Multiple charges for the same crime
Prosecutors will often charge an individual with murder and manslaughter when it isn’t clear that a murder charge will stick. The jury then has the option of convicting the defendant on the charge of murder or manslaughter. It’s true that an individual cannot be guilty of both manslaughter and murder at the same time, because the elements of each crime contradict one another. One is an unintentional homicide, the other is a premeditated act.
The Chauvin charges make more sense because he was charged with unintentional murder, and third-degree murder (which requires intent to harm, but not necessarily anyone specific, and not an intent to kill). So Chauvin wasn’t at the same time accused of intentionally and unintentionally murdering George Floyd. Since the charges are not in conflict with one another, there’s no cause for appeal, at least not on that basis. Chauvin’s conviction is more likely to stick.
Multiple convictions for the same crime
There is such a thing as compound crimes. For instance, if you go into a liquor store with an illegal weapon and shoot the clerk, you can be charged with a weapons violation, robbery, murder or attempted murder, and whatever else. However, it seems legally absurd to allow the prosecution to charge a defendant based on two conflicting criminal acts that would essentially cancel each other out.
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If you’re facing serious criminal charges, call the West Palm Beach criminal attorneys at The Skier Law Firm, P.A. today to schedule an appointment and discuss your situation in more detail.