A West Palm Beach jury found two men not guilty of first-degree murder after a 16-year-old girl was killed in the crossfire. The prosecution had claimed that the two men conducted a drive-by shooting, but the men alleged that someone had fired at their vehicle first and they returned fire. They further contended that the girl was killed by the other shooter and not them.
This sounds easy enough to disprove, correct? If I say my gun didn’t fire the fatal shot, the prosecution can compare the casing or wounds found in the descendant to my gun. The FBI has been convicting people on this evidence for years. So why couldn’t the prosecution prove whose gun fired the fatal shot?
Here’s the better question. If the prosecution couldn’t find evidence that the defendants fired the bullet that killed the girl, how did this case ever make it to trial?
What were they doing at the time of the shootout?
The prosecution told a story for which they had little evidence. They said three men including two juveniles were on a mission to retaliate after the non-juvenile was targeted in an assassination earlier in the day. The two juveniles were providing support. Guns were found in the vehicle.
The state had a witness who testified that the shots from the three men were fired before bystanders returned gunfire. However, the defense was able to produce enough doubt on the matter to convince the jury the state had no idea where the gunshots were coming from. Their witness was at the scene attempting to buy marijuana at the time and her attention was directed elsewhere. It can be hard to tell which direction a gunshot came from unless you’re in an open field.
Beyond a reasonable doubt
In order to prove someone is guilty of murder, you must prove that they attempted to murder someone and were successful. If you can’t do that, then you can prove that they were attempting to commit a violent felony and caused the death of another person accidentally while committing that felony. If the state had been able to prove that the men fired a weapon in retaliation for a previous assassination attempt, then the men would have been found guilty of felony murder regardless of whether or not they wanted to harm this particular victim.
So, if you go shoot up a home to take out one guy, but end up hitting someone else accidentally, you can still be charged with first-degree murder (as opposed to manslaughter) based on your intent to commit a violent felony. It’s worse in Alabama where you can be charged with your pal’s murder after they are shot and killed by a police officer. Right now there are teens in prison doing first-degree murder time on charges that a cop killed their buddy while he was trying to run away. It remains unclear how many white teens face first-degree murder charges for fleeing police.
Talk to a West Palm Beach Criminal Defense Attorney
If you are facing criminal charges, call the West Palm Beach criminal attorneys at The Skier Law Firm, P.A. today and we can begin preparing your defense immediately.