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ScottyMacEsq
ScottyMacEsq, Lawyer
Category: Criminal Law
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Experience:  Licensed Texas General Practice Attorney
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I have a relative who was arrested on murder charges. He

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I have a relative who was arrested on murder charges. He admitted and told me personally the guy came into his home, threatened him, they fought, he choked him until he presumably passed out/away, and drug the person outside of his home. He is being accused of a shooting murder. My relative has a criminal past, but never was he ever charged with, performed any crime with, or been known to carry a firearm. He ultimately accepted a Kennedy plea bargain because he was under duress (they threatened him with arresting his sister and ex-wife). They have absolutely no evidence other than witnesses who claim to have known what happened, but there was no gun splatter residue on him, in the apartment, and the no blood splatter in the apartment consistent with a gun shot. There is no weapon. The witnesses were bribed. The address on the warrant was incorrect and they still searched his apartment and found nothing other than what was consistent with his story of a fight. The only reason he took the plea deal (previously rejected) was he had no faith in the public defender and tried to fire the person and was told he could not. The judge and prosecutor were married and two out of the 48 jurors chosen to sit for his case were the only minorities from a country town in West Virginia. I have more detail of course, but I would like to know is this a case the NAACP would get involved?
JA: Since laws vary from place to place, what state is this in? And when was the warrant issued?
Customer: The state is West Virginia and I do not have the exact date. The crime took place in September of last year.
JA: Have you talked to a lawyer yet?
Customer: I am the uncle. He finally reached out to me from prison within the last two days. I knew some of the issues before he accepted the deal from his brother and sister. I actually talked to him after the crime. He panicked and fled to New Jersey (home state) because he thought he choked the man out and killed him by strangulation. A few days later, his sister reached out and told me what was going on and sent me a link to a newspaper clipping from the local area stating he had shot the man. I talked to him before the bounty hunters came and he told me exactly what happened and never mentioned a weapon.
JA: Anything else you want the lawyer to know before I connect you?
Customer: Besides wanting to ask is this case one the NAACP would take, I would like to know why would the state push for first degree murder with only circumstantial evidence and why would they deny him from pulling his Kennedy plea?

Thank you for using JustAnswer.

I'm sorry to hear about your situation. Such a matter would be a "habeas corpus" action (where the state has to show good reason why it's holding onto him). Is there any evidence that he was treated more severely because of his race (I assume he's African-American)?

Customer: replied 1 month ago.
He is African American, and I was told he was threatened each time to take a plea deal. He is being forced to take his public defender and there is no one in the jury pool to make it a fair mixture of his peers.

Well, most defendants are threatened to take a plea deal. The whole point of a plea deal is that they're accepting a bargain than what might otherwise happen at trial. It's risk mitigation, and for the prosecutors to make it worth while, they need to follow through with threats to prosecute more vigorously and ask for stiffer sentences. Now if there's evidence that the threats were greater than against white / Hispanic / Asian / etc... then that might be evidence of racial discrimination, but it's not per se.

As far as the jury make-up, is there any evidence that they pulled from a predominantly white population? That is, it was only two minorities that showed up to the jury pool in the first place?

Customer: replied 1 month ago.
I don't know if he felt it was discrimination in any form because of ethnicity or recidivism. I am not very familiar with
West Virginia or the county he is in, Raleigh county. After looking at DataUSA, I discovered the majority of the population is White (87.3%; Blacks are 8.3%), and the poorest group is the same at 80.9% and Blacks at 14.3%. That could play a part in the make up in the jury, but it could also play a part in discrimination against him.

It could. But a "jury of your peers" means geographically, not ethnically. "A jury of peers" more accurately means "a jury of fellow citizens." While courts do not have to ensure that a defendant's race, gender, or age group is represented in the jury pool, the U.S. Supreme Court has held that courts may not remove a potential juror based solely on his or her race or gender. So in short, if it's indicative of the demographics of the area, then it's not going to be something that can successfully be challenged.

Now it can't hurt asking the NAACP for help, but they're going to be spending time and resources on cases that they feel are within the cause of the organization (race discrimination cases). If there's no evidence of that, then this might not be successful. Contacting the ACLU (http://acluwv.org/) would probably be a better idea. That's more about general civil rights, rather than anything specific. And finally, I would suggest contacting WVU School of Law and see if they offer any clinics for wrongfully convicted individuals.

It can't hurt to contact the NAACP, but I wouldn't be surprised if they decline this case because of a lack of evidence relating to discrimination based upon race.

Hope that clears things up a bit. If you have any other questions, please let me know. If not, and you have not yet, please rate my answer AND press the "submit" button, if applicable. Contact ACLU and the law schools to see if they can help, as I think those would be more likely to assist.

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Thank you, ***** ***** luck to you!

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