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to be really surprised that a jury can convict someone on such flimsy evidence?

(34 Posts)
ciabattav0nbreadstickz Tue 08-Mar-16 15:26:29

I watched a programe recently, BBC 3, about the death penalty and crime in America.

There was a case involving a mass killing of 8 members of a family and the near fatal injury of another, the son of one of the victims - Guy Heinze Jr -was accused of killing all 8 people on his own.

Did anyone else see this? I mean, I know I wasn't on the jury and didn't hear the full evidence but from what was shown and the evidence that is available on the net and so on it just doesn't seem enough to convict someone of such an awful crime. How does one person kill 8 people in the same place at the same time without at least one of them getting away or alerting someone? Aibu to wonder how these jury members could have been absolutely convinced of his guilt?

The whole thing just seemed to highlight just how easily flaws in the system can result in someone ending up imprisoned for life or on death row, just made me very sad sad

expatinscotland Tue 08-Mar-16 15:27:43

You are right: you were not on the jury and didn't hear all the evidence.

RitaVinTease Tue 08-Mar-16 15:33:34

Thats why I'm against the death penalty, so many convicted people turn out to be victims of politics and injustice.
The Guildford 4 and Birmingham 6 spent years in prison and received millions in compensation, while the whole time Security Services knew damn well who did it as they had people on the inside of the IRA!

That means out own govt knowingly let the SAS interrogate innocent people, then put them in prison. So where is incentive to be innocent?

ciabattav0nbreadstickz Tue 08-Mar-16 15:50:13

What struck me also was that this guy was in prison for 4 years before the even had a trial! So if he was found innocent then he would have spent 4 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit. I know it can take time to build a case but still that seems like such a long time when they are not convinced of his guilt.

The evidence against him seemed to be very weak. The evidence provided by the forensic experts indicated that the crimes were commited by at least 2 people, possibly as many as 5/6 and there was no physical evidence connecting him to the crimes. The police did not process the scene properly or collect all the evidence, evidence was incorrectly stored and bagged, just so many errors I couldn't help thinking that if this case was in the UK he would not have been convicted.

Thisismyalias Tue 08-Mar-16 15:50:47

The American 'justice' system is broken.

CaptainMarvelDanvers Tue 08-Mar-16 15:53:27

Apparently they keep people in jail and postpone the trial date to try and pressure defendants to take a plea deal.

ciabattav0nbreadstickz Tue 08-Mar-16 15:58:31

I can believe that Captain.

They had interviews with some of the jurors - 2 were young women who admitted that they were confused for the majority of the trial and said they didn't understand the evidence.

There was one juror who was replaced because she refused to convict him - to do this they made a deal that they could replace the juror on the condition that they were not allowed to hand him the death penalty and when this was revealed one juror expressed disappointment that they weren't going to be given the opportunity to sentance him to death! Just unbelievable.

LurkingHusband Tue 08-Mar-16 16:09:23

The Guildford 4 and Birmingham 6 spent years in prison and received millions in compensation,

Out of which they had to pay board and lodging. However, for those people who despair at the cost of justice, fear not. The changes made by Chris Grayling under the last government mean that in future people wrongly convicted are much less likely to receive any compensation - but they will still be liable for board and lodging in prison, so hopefully will go to their graves in penury.

If there's one thing I hate more than guilty criminals, it's innocent ones. Wasting police time with their whinges about "not doing it". Boils my piss.

ScarlettOHaraHamilton Tue 08-Mar-16 16:10:07

I remember this show vividly. DP and I watched it and both said that while the evidence hardly made him look innocent, it certainly did not in any way leave me feeling that they had proved beyond reasonable doubt that he had committed these murders.

There was another episode in this series on the other day and it had a young man who was convicted of the very brutal murder of a couple. The jury then had to debate whether he would get the death sentence or not. Despite a raft of testimony from psychiatrists and experts showing that he had been severely affected by problems during his childhood, and the fact that if he did not get the death penalty he was still looking at life with no parole (proper life, so he would never be released) the jury still gave him the death penalty. One woman desperately did not want to but was bullied into it by the other jurors; she admitted this, and looked so sad about it.

What stuck with me was the incredibly eloquent summing up of the boy's lawyer in the mitigation section of the trial. He said that this boy had been let down by society as a child, with no school or public body ever helping him and his mother through horrible domestic abuse and the death of a sibling. The child grew up into a damaged young man. And then when this damaged young man did something terrible, what was society's response? Not to help him. Not to at least offer full life in prison. No, society's response was to decide that he was too damaged, and to kill him sad

AnchorDownDeepBreath Tue 08-Mar-16 16:14:16

I watched that. I researched it afterwards. I think the filming may have been accurate at the time but was slightly misleading.

He was on crack cocaine. He had blood on his shorts, undershorts and shoes, which matched four of the victims, but none of his shirt, hands or face. The defence expert who testified that the smearing may have happened after he found the bodies later said that the pattern was too inconsistent to tell.

He knew that the family had been beaten to death when he made the 911 call. The scene was so bloody that the first police on scene believed they'd been shot. He said all nine were dead - two were alive when police arrived. One is still alive.

One of the victims bloody cellphones was found in his car, along with a shotgun featuring a bloody handprint. The blood belonged to the victims. Heinze Jr said he was worried about owning an illegal weapon and therefore hid it after finding the bodies but it was a legally owned gun.

He took a plea deal because he didn't want to explain any of the above. Maybe he'd do that if he was innocent and scared, but as it takes between 15 - 20 years to be executed, he'd have had time to appeal if he was wrongfully convicted.

The documentary picked up a few things that made it seem like he could be innocent, which drives forward the aim of the program. The evidence from Heinze Jr himself suggests that he was involved. Maybe he didn't act alone.

The juror who was dismissed had been mentioned by both sides as being disinterested and disengaged, of sitting away from the other jurors and refusing to look at the evidence. I think the removal was probably par for the course although it does make the whole trial more interesting.

AnchorDownDeepBreath Tue 08-Mar-16 16:23:47

Scarlett Why would you want to give him life without parole?

He beat his girlfriend horrendously because she refused to have sex with him at a party. When her parents banned her from seeing him, he killed her dad so brutally that his spine disconnected from his head, then text her mum from her dad's phone to ask when she'd be home, and laid in wait for hours to kill her too. Then he text his girlfriend from their phones, saying she should forgive him.

His story was sad, but that's the defences job. His mum looked heartbroken and didn't want to lose another child, but you can't decide based on that. She was never the one being punished.

His girlfriends life was ruined by her parents murder. She went on to sell cocaine, and is serving 30 months for drug trafficking. She has no family support now.

Even his defence team admitted that there was no defending his actions and they'd had to fall back on the "standard" defence of low IQ, no family, poor start in life, bad culture.

I'm not sure that him getting the death sentence is at all shocking. He knew that the state he was in had the death penalty when he planned and carried out the attack. Life in prison is still life that his victims didn't get.

(I don't agree with the death penalty, necessarily, but I think it's Americas decision to still have it, and as they do, criminals know that is a likely outcome. Especially for brutal murders)

ScarlettOHaraHamilton Tue 08-Mar-16 16:26:39

Because I don't agree with the death penalty confused

ciabattav0nbreadstickz Tue 08-Mar-16 16:40:58

Yes, he did have blood on his shorts and shoes, but there was blood all over the crime scene and he was the one that found them so its inevitable he would end up stepping in some or transferring some to his shoes and clothing accidentally. I think they officers that responded were actually surprised he didn't have more blood on him because of the state of the scene. The blood marks were transfer, not splatter so could not have got there during the attacks according to the experts.

He stated that he thought they had been beaten because of the way they looked, he didn't definitively state they had been beaten so that is hardly proof or anything. During the 911 call I thought he stated that one of the victims was still breathing but tbh if you walked in and saw everyone in the house dead you'd probably be in shock and wouldn't necessarily check everyone for signs of life, the victims who were still alive still had extensice injuries so you might just assume looking at them that they were all dead.

He admitted taking the gun from the house because he thought it was stolen (hence the blood on it), but since the gun was not used in the crime it was kind of irrelevent what he did with it?

He didn't make the deal, his defence team did. They didn't change his plea to guilty, just agreed that one of the jurors could be changed because they obviously felt that the jury at that point wanted to convict him and wanted to save his life.

I agree Scarlett, there were definately things that looked suspicious but and I'm not suggesting he is totally innocent but there was not enough evidence to conclude that he is the only person who could have possibly commited those crimes against all reasonable doubt.

I watched that other episode too. I remember that juror and thought that the very much seemed that she was bullied into delivering that verdict. I suspect that jurors make decisions they don't agree with quite often, especially when the case is very high profile or has taken a long time to get a verdict as people just want a decision quickly so they can say 'justice has been done'.

thecitydoc Tue 08-Mar-16 16:41:10

lurking - There are two elements to compensation payments when wrongly imprisoned. The first, is compensation for being in jail for a crime you didn't commit. The second, is for loss of earnings while you were in jail. It is from this element that deductions are made for board and lodgings as you would have had to have paid for food etc as well as somewhere to live, so the loss of earning element of the compensation is reduced.

MoonriseKingdom Tue 08-Mar-16 16:47:40

I don't know much about thus case but there are some very sad tales of miscarriage of justice.

There is a documentary called 'West of Memphis' that has been on Netflix recently (not sure if still there). Well worth a watch. 3 teenagers convicted of child murder with very little supporting evidence. It's hard to believe the police failed to investigate the more likely murderer.

LurkingHusband Tue 08-Mar-16 16:47:53


Writing it down doesn't make it any more palatable. In fact it makes it sound worse. Unless the logic is the victim chose to be wrongly imprisoned ?

LurkingHusband Tue 08-Mar-16 16:51:34

there are some very sad tales of miscarriage of justice.

For some reason, the terrible tragedy of Stefan Kiszko - WARNING UPSETTING - has haunted me ever since I heard of it.

I am opposed to the death penalty on moral grounds. But if you want a single case that should end the debate, then that is it.

ciabattav0nbreadstickz Tue 08-Mar-16 16:51:55

Also, with the young man that killed the couple, that was a very sad case too and while he did not have a great childhood that isn't an excuse to do what he did (not that I'm suggesting you think it is!) but I think he should have gotten life without parole rather than the death penalty. What does the death penalty do? Yes it isn't a surprise in that state but it doesn't make it better, it doesn't take away the victim's family's pain, it doesn't bring them back. If it's just pure retribution it still doesn't make that much sense, if 1 person kills 2 people, then is executed the 'score' still isn't 'even'.

ciabattav0nbreadstickz Tue 08-Mar-16 16:55:04

There was another guy who was convicted through the 'law of parties' for a murder that his father commited but because he was present he was found guilty and sentanced to 99yrs. He was 15 at the time. Then whilst in prison he apparently killed a prison guard and got the death penalty, he was actually given a stay of execution so they could investigate the evidence against him for the guard's murder as this was also very shaky. Why he was tried as an adult when he was only 15 and given a life sentance I have no idea.

LurkingHusband Tue 08-Mar-16 16:58:32

What does the death penalty do?

You only have to see the baying for blood it brings out to realise it dehumanizes us all sad.

AnchorDownDeepBreath Tue 08-Mar-16 17:06:41

Cia I don't disagree with you and Scarlett there, but I thought you were saying those two specific cases didn't deserve the death sentence. My apologies!

An eye for an eye, and all that. I'm surprised that somewhere that we regard as such as future country still has a death penalty, although I suppose there's lots of calls for prisoners in the UK to be killed so we don't have to pay for their upkeep - it's a scary viewpoint but one that seems to be growing.

ciabattav0nbreadstickz Tue 08-Mar-16 17:42:18

Well I have heard that point debated too Anchor, that its cheaper to just kill people than to keep them in prison indefinately which does indeed seem like a scary road to go down. I'm not sure that it actually is cheaper, I mean in one way I can see the point that if someone is not alive as long you are paying out less in food, clothing, shelter etc but prisoners on death row have the right to appeal, sometimes over and over again. All those appeals obviously cost a lot of money in lawyers, judges, forensics experts potentially and so on and so forth.

It's interesting that the death penalty does not seem to be much of a deterrent in America, the country with the highest number of prisoners in the world. Also interesting when you compare the rates of crime in somewhere like America that has a lot of life sentances and the death penalty with somewhere like Norway that has neither and their crime rates and reoffending rates are much lower.

lorelei9 Tue 08-Mar-16 17:47:30

OP I didn't see this programme but I am puzzled by the concept generally - I have a different idea of evidence than some I guess!

If we look at a case like Barry George for example - WTF? how did he get convicted? We may not have the death penalty but in general, how does "balance of probability" get people convicted?

thenewaveragebear1983 Tue 08-Mar-16 17:57:47

Regarding the four years in prison as he was refused bail. Would you prefer someone suspected of brutally killing 9 people be allowed to remain free until the trial? hmm
They don't refuse bail without some evidence, previous convictions or a likelihood that the suspect will abscond or reoffend.

ciabattav0nbreadstickz Tue 08-Mar-16 18:23:46

Well I realise that having someone who potentially killed 9 people free would be a very bad thing, however, in this case he did not have any of the things you mentioned it was just that he was the only suspect they were willing to consider.

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