Archive for the 'Criminal Law' CategoryPage 2 of 66

Medical Researcher Sentenced for Killing His Wife with Cyanide

Robert Ferrante, a researcher from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, has been sentenced to life without parole. The final conviction took place Wednesday, February 4th. He has been convicted of first-degree murder by poisoning his wife. The accomplished researcher in Lou Gehrig’s disease added cyanide to an energy drink that he later gave to his wife in April 2013. She dropped dead three days later.

robert ferranteText messages between Ferrante (66) and his late wife, Dr. Autumn Klein, revealed that Ferrante convinced Klein consuming the drink will help her ovulate. Klein was “obsessed” with having a second child, and Ferrante took advantage of her longing. Klein, although an experienced 41 year old neurologist, believed her husband and had the drink.

Ferrante defended himself by denying any involvement of poisoning his wife. He claimed he ordered the cyanide to use in an experiment to imitate Lou Gehrig’s disease in his lab. But, evidence from text messages and Ferrante’s ever changing story, led the jury to convict him of murder.

During the trial, prosecutors alleged that Ferrante was in fear his wife was going to divorce him, so he killed her before she could.

The couple has an eight year old daughter, Cianna, who is now in the custody of Klein’s parents.

If a victim is poisoned and dies, the perpetrator has committed first degree murder. It does not matter what kind of poison it was or how the poison was ingested, any intentional poisoning is murder. To prove that a defendant killed the victim, the jury must prove the defendant intended to kill, and they killed the victim by administering the poison.

At the end of the trial, the defense and prosecution agreed to work together on a settlement that will end the wrongful death lawsuit filed by Klein’s parents, Lois and William.

Revenge Porn – Is It Legal?

Scorned ex-lovers have taken to the Internet to shame and expose the women who have broken their hearts. In this century’s version of blackmail, revenge porn has become rampant across the country. The perpetrators (mostly men) submit explicit images of the ones who used to trust them to websites dedicated to revenge porn. The images often times link to the victim’s social media pages and include personal information such as address, phone number, and email. Disgusting and offensive? Absolutely. But is it illegal?

revenge pornThe website, UGotPosted.com, launched in December of 2012. The website developer is a 28 year old from San Diego named Kevin Bollaert. Since its launch about two years ago, the site has accumulated over 10,000 nude photos of mostly women. If victims want their photos to be taken down, they have to go through Bollaert’s second website, ChangeMyReputation.com. They must pay $300 to $350 for the photos to be removed. He has made tens of thousands of dollars through this horrific website.

The two sites have since been shut down.

Bollaert was arrested December 2013 after a new law passed in California prohibiting the distribution of nude photos without the person’s consent. The law was passed in October 2013. The law makes posting identifiable nude photos without consent a misdemeanor. A person will also be convicted if they are guilty of intent to cause emotional distress or humiliation to the victim.

Bollaert was found guilty of 27 counts, which included identity theft and extortion. The San Diego County Superior Court jury was not able to reach verdicts on two of the counts, including identity theft and conspiracy, and the judge pronounced a mistrial on them. Either way, Bollaert is now facing up to 20 years in prison.

Bollaert’s lawyer, Emily Rose-Weber, attempted to defend his actions by claiming he is just a web developer. Because he did not post the photos himself, he is in no way guilty of breaking the new law. She also added that although he took advantage of “human weakness,” developing an outlet for angry ex’s is not illegal. The statute states that charges can be held only against the person who actually took the photo. But, he was still convicted of identity theft and six counts of extortion.

At the moment, only 16 states have enacted laws to protect victims of revenge porn. Florida is in the process of legitimizing a similar law.

How the Insanity Defense Will Be Central in the Trial of Chris Kyle’s Murderer

February 2nd marked the anniversary of Chris Kyle’s death. Legendary Navy SEAL sniper was murdered by a fellow veteran at the Rough Creek Lodge in Glen Rose, Texas on this date 2013. After putting his life on the line for fellow soldiers during four tours in the Middle East, his murder by a veteran is disturbingly ironic.

chris kyle american sniperThe release of the acclaimed film “American Sniper” does not bode well for Eddie Ray Routh, the man who killed Kyle. Since the film’s release, Routh sought to move his trial out of Texas. His request has been rejected. At this point, it is going to be near impossible to find a set of jurors who haven’t seen the movie, or haven’t heard of Chris Kyle.

Background on the Murder

Kyle took Routh to the shooting range about an hour from where Kyle lived. He got in touch with Routh after his mother contacted Kyle asking for his help. Kyle’s plan was to help Routh with his PTSD, by providing a safe place for Routh to talk and open up to Kyle. A huge problem that comes along with PTSD is the inability to trust others. Kyle wanted to help Routh with this problem and make him feel heard and not alone.

Once settled at the gun range, they raised the red Bravo flag, to indicate they were going to start shooting. Kyle had helped design the range, and could come and go as he pleased. He reserved the space until 4 pm. At 4:55 pm, a guide noticed the flag was still up and drove towards the platform. He then discovered the body of Kyle with a bullet in his back and head and the body of a second veteran, Littlefield, with multiple gunshot wounds. Both were dead.

Routh is facing charges of capital murder.

Insanity Defense for Veterans with PTSD

As expected, Routh’s lawyers will be defending him with an insanity defense. He admitted to police that he killed Kyle and Littlefield, and then fled the scene with Kyle’s truck. Routh was formally diagnosed with PTSD, and also suffered from depression, mania, and nightmares. According to Routh’s family, he has had a long list of incidences relating to his PTSD. He had threatened to kill himself and his family in the past, and was admitted to psychiatric wards numerous times. He was in the Dallas V.A. Medical Center and Green Oaks Hospital in Dallas just days before the murder.

A 2014 study revealed that veterans suffering from PTSD or alcohol abuse are seven times more likely to commit violent crimes than fellow veterans. Also, dozens of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan have been accused of murder, some even killing themselves. 2.6 million Americans have served in either Iraq or Afghanistan, and half a million suffer from PTSD. Some people with PTSD can also have flashes of anger, that turn into hallucinations. These hallucinations can bring veterans back to the battlefield, and make violent decisions that can turn them into criminals.

In recent years, it has become apparent that a change needs to be made to the criminal justice system. Too many soldiers are being sent to jail for crimes committed due to their PTSD. In 2013, the Veterans Defense Project published a manual for defense attorneys to use when defending a veteran with a post-battle mental illness. The book is “The Attorney’s Guide to Defending Veterans in Criminal Court.” The book helps explain PTSD and traumatic brain injury and its effects on soldiers. It also has a section that explains how PTSD can be used as an insanity defense in court. The projects goals are to help rehabilitate suffering veterans, assist attorneys in understanding their clients and their illness, and to help increase public knowledge of issues within the criminal justice system.

Individual Veterans Treatment Courts have started to spread throughout each state. A key aspect to these courts is the option of alternative rehabilitation treatment instead of incarceration. The programs can be for mental health or substance abuse, and are often lead by veteran mentors. PTSD has increasingly become a defense for an insanity plea because of this system. This type of court is essential to keeping mentally unstable veterans out of jail, and into the help they really need. But it does not come without its issues. It is still being decided if felonies or violent crimes should be held in veteran’s court, or go through the regular criminal justice system.

In the case of Routh, he will be tried in the conventional criminal justice system. His PTSD and depression will definitely be used by his lawyers as a basis for the insanity defense plea. Either way, the murder of legendary veteran Chris Kyle, will not be forgotten.

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Suge Knight’s Involvement in the Fatal Hit and Run

Thursday night, the co-founder of Death Row Records, Suge Knight, was involved in a fatal hit and run accident. He was filming “Straight Outta Compton”, a film about N.W.A, the night of the accident. Knight arrived at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department West Hollywood station Friday morning with his attorney. Homicide detectives were waiting there to question him.

Suge KnightThe crash occurred at Tam’s Burgers in Compton, California. Lt. John Corina with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department reported that Knight ran over two men in the parking lot of the restaurant. The accident happened about 20 minutes after a fight broke out on the set of the movie. Corina also stated it looked like Knight hit the two men reversing into them, and hit them again by driving forward into them. Terry Carter died in the accident, and actor Cle “Bone” Sloan who appeared in “Training Day” was injured.

Witnesses have told the sheriff’s department that the accident looked like an intentional act. The department is treating the incident as a homicide.

Knight is defending himself by claiming he was attacked by two people and accidentally hit the two men while driving away. Knight’s lawyer, James Blatt, sees the incident as a “tragic accident”. He stated Knight had no idea he ran someone over. Blatt has stated he is positive Knight will be exonerated.

Knight is currently being held on a $2 million bail.

How can Knight defend himself if the case goes to trial? Hit and runs that end in death can be tried as a felony or misdemeanor. If Knight is charged with a misdemeanor hit and run that ended in death, he would have to pay between 1,000 and 10,000 dollars. He also would serve at least 90 days in jail.

But, if Knight is convicted of a felony hit and run that resulted in death, he will pay the same amount but spend two to four years in state prison.

There are four pieces of evidence a prosecutor needs to indict the defendant involved in a hit and run. They first must prove that you were involved in the accident that resulted in injury or death. Second, they must prove that you had knowledge an accident had occurred. Third, the prosecutor must prove one of the two: that you knew someone was injured or killed, or that the accident was so extreme that an injury or death was inevitable. Fourth, it must be proved that you willfully failed to do one or more of the actions above.

Since Friday, police have attempted to obtain video footage from Tam’s Burgers, but the cameras were broken. All other cameras of near businesses were turned away from the accident.

If police are unable to prove that Knight knew he ran someone over or that he did it on purpose, he could get off. Knight has an extensive rap sheet of assault and larceny charges, but this is by far the most serious crime he allegedly committed.

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Philadelphia Detective Becomes a Suspect in Homicide Case

A Philadelphia police homicide detective has been indicted for obstruction of justice, flight to avoid apprehension, and conspiracy. Ron Dove, a 16-year veteran of the Philadelphia police department, helped his girlfriend, Erica Sanchez, flee across state lines after she murdered her ex-husband, Cesar Vera.

philadelphia detectiveImmediately after the murder, a blood-soaked Sanchez called detective Dove, begging for help. Dove soon after picked up Sanchez, drove her to Rochester, NY, and gave her a new phone that could not be traced. He also hid her car in a garage and spent time cleaning her vehicle and apartment of possible evidence.

Dove disclosed to colleagues at the police department that he might know someone who has committed a murder. He did not reveal the identity of his girlfriend, but the conversation was clearly about Sanchez. Dove continued to press his colleagues for details about the case, while keeping his girlfriend in hiding. Eventually, Dove admitted to knowing Sanchez, but denied any involvement in her escape. He also stated that the alleged murder was done in self-defense of her ex-husband. Vera was arrested twice in the past for domestic violence, both times involving Sanchez.

Dove was fired a month after the murder in November 2013 for lying to investigators.

Sanchez turned herself in October 16, 2013, and was charged with hindering apprehension and the murder of Cesar Vera. She is currently awaiting trial. Dove turned himself in to authorities Thursday, January 22. He eventually was released that night on a $2,500 bail. His lawyer, Brian McMonagle, argued that Dove “didn’t believe he was helping a criminal” and was instead “protecting a victim of domestic violence who had acted in self-defense.”

Was the murder of Vera an act of self-defense? Or was it an ex-lover’s final revenge? The general legal rule is that force used in self-defense is only justifiable if there is an imminent threat. The threat may by physical or verbal, but it must make the victim feel immediately physically threatened.

Even though Vera was arrested for domestic violence involving Sanchez in the past, his murder is only justifiable if Sanchez felt threatened in that moment. It is a high possibility that Sanchez went to Vera’s home seeking revenge for years of abuse, and killed him with no immediate threat. If this is the case, Sanchez will be found guilty of murder.

In addition to an ongoing investigation, the district attorney’s office is investigating all cases Dove was involved in while employed as a homicide detective. One case, involving the murder of Leslie Delzingaro, was led by Dove. Family members have expressed their distrust in Dove, claiming he withheld evidence from fellow investigators. Delzingaro was murdered at a bar owned by Sanchez’s father.

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