Category Archives: Homicide

What a Bargain! Mobile Plea Deal in Machine Gun Slaying: How and Why

Brandon Ball, a man charged with murder in connection with the shooting death of a Mobile teenager, pled guilty to a lesser charge of manslaughter in the Mobile County Circuit Court on Monday. Under the terms of the plea arrangement, Ball was given a 15-year suspended sentence and was able to go home the same day. Prosecutors also agreed to drop an assault charge in connection with the shooting. Ball had been in jail on the charges since his arrest, and now begins five years of probation with his release from custody.

The charges stem from an incident that occurred on March 15. Ball confronted the victim, 16-year-old Eric Williams, at a convenience store, accusing him of stealing a necklace. The necklace belonged to Ball’s friend Labarron Turner, who had gotten the necklace two years earlier when his brother died. Later that day, Ball arrived at the victim’s house and again confronted him about the necklace. At about the same time, Turner pulled up in a different vehicle and began firing rounds from an SKS semiautomatic rifle at Williams. According to authorities, 14 bullets hit the victim.

Prosecutors originally charged Ball with murder, alleging that he aided and abetted the shooting by leading Turner to the house. Some witnesses told police that Ball left in the same car Turner was in. Ball disputed these allegations, denying that he knew his friend planned to shoot the victim. However, without the plea deal, trial would have been risky. Had he been convicted, he faced a possible life prison sentence. Turner received 35 years for the shooting.

It may seem disparate that a defendant facing a possible life term in prison is able to reach a plea deal that allows him to go home with only probation. Plea bargaining is a huge part of the criminal justice system, and enables the courts to process the overwhelming number of criminal defendants in a swift and efficient manner. By allowing defendants to plead to a charge in exchange for a fixed sentence, the State is able to avoid the enormous costs and delays of taking each accused person to trial. In exchange for sparing the State the expense of trial, a defendant is often guaranteed a much lower sentence than he could expect if he was convicted after a trial. Of course, any agreement is subject to the court’s ultimate approval.

The plea bargaining system is not without its critics. Some point out that it effectively creates what is known as a “fair trial tax.” This is to suggest that a defendant who decides not to plead guilty and is tried and convicted often receives a much harsher punishment at sentencing than he would have if he had pled before trial. Empirical evidence of actual sentences tends to support this observation, although a judge of course could not constitutionally cite the defendant’s exercise of a right to trial as reason for the heightened sentence. Nevertheless, the perceived “fair trial tax” deters many defendants from proceeding to trial and bolsters the State’s high conviction rates.

Madison County Judge Rules Man is Mentally Retarded and Cannot Face Death Penalty

The issue of the mental capacity of a convicted killer is a volatile subject.  Many believe if a person is able to take a life, he then should be punished for that crime.  There are those who believe, however, that if a person is mentally retarded, he may not have the capicity to know what he was doing when he took that life.  A circuit judge in Alabama had to make a ruling on just this subject last week.

Circuit Judge Jim Smith ruled that Kishon Green, who was charged with fatally stabbing two children in 2008, is mentally retarded and cannot face the death penalty.

Smith commented on the ruling by saying that in many respects, this is the most difficult decision this judge has been called on to make in a career spanning 18 years on the bench.  He added that the court strongly believes that the death penalty is an appropriate punishment for horrific crimes such as the charged offenses is this case, but that  the United States Supreme Court clearly and unequivocally stated that the mentally retarded are exempt from the imposition of the death penalty.

Smith felt that despite the zealous and heartfelt efforts of the prosecutors in this case, the evidence proffered of the defendant’s mental retardation is not only sufficient, it is overwhelming.

The defendant, Kishon Green, is charged with capital murder for the 2008 stabbing deaths of his 10-year-old son, Antwan, and Antwan’s half-brother, 13-year-old Fredrick Thomas.  He also faces attempted murder charges for an attack on the boy’s mother, Tiffany Burrell.

Prosecutors had said they would pursue the death penalty for Green if he is convicted.

Green’s defense attorneys argued that Green in mentally retarded.  They introduced testimony from two psychologists who said Green met the criteria for mental retardation in Alabama, which is: an I.Q. that is sub-normal, deficient ability to behave in society as other people his age, and the condition began before he was 18.

Rob Broussard, Madison County District Attorney, stated his office would review the decision and consider whether to file an appeal. Broussard commented that they had the utmost respect for Judge Smith, but right now they would have to review the decision before I can say if we’re going to appeal.

Judge Smith said he would set a trial date in “the near future.”


Woman Who Accused Duke Lacrosse Players of Rape Charged With Murder

The woman who falsely accused three Duke lacrosse players of raping her in 2006, is one again  in the news.  Crystal Mangum, 33, was indicted on a charge of first-degree murder and two counts of larceny.  On April 3 of this year, police in Raleigh, North Carolina, arrested Mangum and charged her with assault in the stabbing of her boyfriend, Reginald Daye.  Unfortunately, Daye, 46, died two weeks later, April 13th, at a hospital.

In 2006, Mangum falsely accused three  lacrosse players of raping her at a party in which she had been hired to perform as a stripper.  This case heightened long-standing tensions in the Durham area about race, class and the privileged status of college athletes.  North Carolina’s attorney general declared the player’s innocent after the district attorney, Mike Nifong,  who championed Mangum’s claims was later disbarred.  Prosecutors declined to press charges for the false accusations in the 2006 case.

Unfortunately for Mangum, her legal problems have continued.

She was convicted last year on misdemeanor charges after setting a fire that nearly torched her home with her three children inside. She had, according to a police interrogation, been in a confrontation with her boyfriend at the time and burned his clothes, smashed his car windshield and threatened to stab him.  The boyfriend in this confrontation was not Daye.

Mangum has never recovered from the stigma brought by the lacrosse case, said friends, and has made a string of questionable relationships in an attempt to provide stability for her children.  One friend, Vincent Clark, said he hopes that she isn’t judged rashly, which echoes one of the oft-cited lessons of the lacrosse case itself.  Clark also said Mangum realizes that she has mental problems.  “I’m sad for her.  I hope people realize how difficult it is being her,” Clark said.

A nephew of Dayes spoke to a 911 dispatcher after the stabbing and he referenced the notoriety that Mangum still carries.  “It’s Crystal Mangum.  THE Crystal Mangum,” said the nephew.  “I told him she was trouble  from the damn beginning.”

On May 1, her attorney withdrew from her defense saying she had compromised the case by sharing information with supporters.  “The truth will set Crystal Mangum free,” said Sidney Harr, of the Committee on Justice for Mike Nifong, which held a press conference outside the Durham County jail.

According to this committee, they are just trying to protect Mangum from a corrupt judicial system that is punishing her for the 2006 case in which she accused three Duke lacrosse players of rape.  Harr said that her murder charge should be dismissed as she stabbed Daye in self-defense after he punched her, dragged her by her hair, kicked down a locked bathroom door, and continued to abuse her.

Chris Shella, Mangum’s attorney, said Mangum provided supporters with documents and information that he told her to keep confidential. “These individuals have disclosed these documents to the general public along with the potential defense theory of the case,” Shella said in a motion to be removed from the case.  Shella’s request of removal was granted by Superior Court Judge Osmond Smith.

Mangum remains in jail under $200,000 bail.

To read the original article, click here.

14-year-old Accused in Hanging of Half-Sister

A St. Clair County official said that on Thursday, May 10, 9-year-old  Katelynn Arnold was found hanging from a tree near her home.  This homicide they believe, was deliberately performed by the girl’s 14-year-old brother.

Katelynn Arnold’s aunt found the girl hanging from a tree near their home.  According to St. Clair County Sheriff Terry Surles, both Katelynn and her half-brother lived with their aunt and uncle who were serving as their foster parents.

The boy was being held at the Coosa Valley Detention Center in Aniston after being charged with murder.  His name was not released.  The boy admitted killing his 9-year-old half-sister by hanging her from the rope.  He did give officials a motive, but the motive was not released by the sheriff’s office.

According to Sheriff Surles, the little girl was riding her bike when her half-brother called her over near a tree.  After noticing Kate’lynn was missing around 7 p.m., her aunt drove around looking for the girl for approximately 45 minutes before finding her hanging from the tree.  She then called deputies.  By the time investigators arrived, rescuers had removed the girl from the tree.  She was pronounced dead at 9:01 p.m. at St. Vincent’s St. Clair Hospital.

After the girl was found and taken to the hospital, the boy went to bed.  Surles stated that he was arrested between 2 and 3 a.m.

Neighbor Ricky Campbell, whose daughter often played with the slain girl, could only shake his head when thinking about Katelynn’s death.  “She never got a chance to grow up.  Her life was taken away,” he said.  Campbell said he never saw any real signs of trouble out of the boy.  “He’d run off and do crazy things, but I never believed he’d do something like that.  It’s a bad situation,” Campbell said.

What will happen to the boy?  Will he be tried as an adult?  If a 14-year-old told you he was old enough to be treated as a grown-up in every respect, you would probably roll your eyes or laugh out loud.  We all know people that age are still children, which is why we don’t let them drive, vote, or buy alcohol.  About the only way a 14-year-old can warrant adult treatment is to commit murder, which is what happened in this case.

Stakes are high in a murder charge.  An experienced criminal defense lawyer has the resources to offer you a powerful defense, which can result in charges being dropped or reduced before the trial.

The original article can be found here.

Closing arguments given in Alabama homicide trial

Closing arguments were scheduled for Thursday afternoon in the trial of 51-year-old Kimberly McLaughlin. McLaughlin is accused of murdering her mother, Shirley Robuck, in Robuck’s home on September 13, 2009. Robuck’s body was found burnt and decapitated in her Madison home. Authorities counted over 200 stab wounds.

McLaughlin was taken to Bryce Hospital for evaluation following her arrest. Dr. Mark Schmidt testified that McLaughlin was suffering from a severe mental illness at the time of the murder, a particularly dangerous form of bipolar disorder associated with psychotic behavior. Dr. Schmidt cited McLaughlin’s belief that Robuck was a witch or demon capable of possessing McLaughlin’s body. When McLaughlin arrived at the hospital, she claimed that Robuck’s head continued to breathe.

Prosecutors challenged the claim that McLaughlin had been mentally ill at the time, citing her history of cocaine abuse and anger management problems.

The full report from The Huntsville Times can be found here.

Statistically, defense strategies based on the defendant’s mental health are not successful; more often than not, juries simply do not buy it. However, the circumstances of McLaughlin’s case appear to be extraordinary, to say the least; while homicide trials can be procedurally complex and emotionally charged, such cases as this one seem to be especially so.

Moreover, no matter how complex a defendant’s case may be, the law accords him or her important rights that must be protected. If you or a loved one are accused of homicide, a skilled, experienced attorney can help you secure your rights.