Occasionally, the facts that persuade prosecutors to file murder charges sound so convincing that a listener can hardly conjure any sort of reasonable doubt. For example, in the case of a Mobile man who is charged with reckless murder, the facts that support the prosecutor’s prima facie case hardly seem susceptible to reasonable doubt.
THE PROSECUTOR’S CASE
According to the indictment, the defendant was driving his Corvette in excess of the local speed limit and his blood alcohol concentration was above the legal limit. He struck a man who was mowing his lawn, killing him instantly. Based on these facts, the prosecutor decided to charge the man with reckless murder, a crime which requires the prosecutor to prove that the defendant acted with deliberate indifference to human life. At last week’s arraignment, the prosecutor revealed these facts as the basis for the indictment and said that they justified the charges that were entered.
THE DEFENDANT’S CASE
These facts seem irrefutable, but the defendant’s attorney offered several responses. First, he noted that the speedometer on the Corvette may have malfunctioned. A witness unrelated to the incident said that she was driving on the same street at about 60 or 65 mph and that the suspect was behind her. The defendant’s attorney also pointed to conflicts in the testimony of a state trooper about the presence of grass on the road.
WHAT COULD HAPPEN NEXT?
This case will certainly be referred to the grand jury, and the outcome will not be known for months. Nevertheless, the case provides one or two important lessons. The most important is the role of “reasonable doubt.” The defendant in this case cannot be convicted unless and until the jury accepts the truth of the facts that support the murder charge as true beyond a reasonable doubt. Anyone facing similar charges may wish to retain an experienced criminal defense attorney to evaluate the evidence and devise legal arguments that take maximum advantage of the doctrine of reasonable doubt.