Nicely, the Tex McIver verdict is in. Most of the regulars right here at Regulation&Crime have been shocked.
Former prosecutor Dan Schorr known as it a “surprising verdict.” Former prosecutor and present legal protection lawyer Bob Bianchi adopted his preliminary “holy cow!” by calling it a “gorgeous defeat.” Former prosecutor and present legal protection lawyer Jonna Spilbor stated, “holy sh*t, I’m shocked.” Mark Eiglarsh stated, “wow.”
It’s an odd, unusual verdict. Right here, legally, is why.
As I’ve beforehand acknowledged, Georgia prosecutors had an uphill battle making an attempt to convict Tex McIver past an inexpensive doubt of malice homicide below state regulation. Jurors apparently agreed. McIver was acquitted of that cost. Nevertheless, jurors convicted McIver of each single different cost the jurors might think about from the unique indictment, together with felony homicide. Felony homicide is outlined in Georgia regulation as follows:
An individual commits the offense of homicide when, within the fee of a felony, she or he causes the demise of one other human being regardless of malice.
The distinction? The Georgia Supreme Courtroom has stated:
Felony homicide includes a nonintentional killing dedicated within the prosecution of a felony. It’s nonetheless homicide and is topic to the identical penalties as “malice homicide.” The one distinction is the absence of intent and malice. (Emphasis added.)
Felony homicide in most states is charged in a scenario the place the underlying felony has nothing to do with wanting somebody useless. The textbook instance is a financial institution theft. Let’s say a perpetrator and his confederate wish to rob a financial institution. The perpetrator will get a gun and the confederate will get a sack to hold away the money. They drive up and rush in. The perpetrator factors the gun on the teller. The confederate holds open the bag. Because the teller forks over the cash, somebody sneezes, and the startled perpetrator jumps. He pulls the set off, killing the teller. Each the perpetrator and the confederate are responsible of felony homicide. They solely meant to rob the financial institution, a felony, and the killing was unintentional.
Right here, the underlying felony is aggravated assault. Mainly, jurors apparently agreed as to the next: that McIver needed to “violently injure” his spouse, Diane McIver (that’s “assault“), and that he did so both: (a) with the intent to kill her, (b) used a lethal weapon, or (c) shot her from inside a motorized vehicle (that’s the “aggravated” half).
What’s weird right here is that (a) just about comes out legally to be the identical factor as felony homicide (discover the requirement of intent, which is part of malice homicide however not part of felony homicide). Felony homicide is nonintentional, bear in mind? Why is that this cost even on the books? As a result of if somebody intends to kill somebody they usually fortunately don’t die, however are solely in actual fact violently injured, there’s nonetheless one thing to throw at them. That’s not what occurred to Diane McIver. So, that doesn’t work. If jurors believed this, they’d have simply convicted McIver of malice homicide. They didn’t try this.
What concerning the different two prospects? In addition they reek. Choices (b) and (c) function off the authorized premise that McIver solely needed to “violently injure” his spouse by capturing her. That’s what jurors in the end agreed: that Tex McIver needed to “violently injure” his spouse (assault) and did so utilizing a weapon and/or was in a automobile (that’s “aggravated”). As a result of she died throughout the fee of this “violent harm,” McIver dedicated felony homicide. That’s, legally, what the jurors discovered, unanimously, past an inexpensive doubt, occurred to Diane McIver.
Factually, that was not the state’s case. The state was adamant, crystal clear, loud, and agency: Tex McIver needed Diane McIver useless. He needed her useless for monetary causes. He needed her useless so he might have their property and cash to himself. He needed her useless to keep away from her from giving issues to the individuals she cared about. (The couple stored separate funds.) Nowhere did the state recommend that McIver needed to damage his spouse and that she unintentionally died on account of his want to merely injure her.
So, the jurors legally convicted McIver of what the state by no means argued he meant to do. Was it a compromise? Had been they confused? Solely they’d know.
Don’t get me going concerning the weird jury questions throughout deliberations, together with the requests to take a seat within the precise automobile with the precise gun. Jurors have been allowed, separately, to take a seat within the automobile, then to return to the jury room to debate what they every noticed throughout their very own experimentations. That jurors felt the necessity to conduct their very own experiments suggests the state couldn’t show its case past an inexpensive doubt. It additionally raises confrontation clause points. Jurors, little question, have been telling each other what they thought they noticed within the automobile, virtually like skilled witnesses who weren’t on the witness stand. The opposite questions from the jurors instructed a impasse or an acquittal. That every one modified on the apparently final minute.
Anyway — this convoluted logic can also be why most states, comparable to New York, restrict the use of the felony homicide rule to a collection of enumerated, underlying felonies: rape, theft, arson, and the like — the place intentional and unintentional deaths are stored legally separate. The punishments is likely to be the identical, however the definitions of the crimes are separate in order to not be obscure. Georgia’s logic is extra round. The felony homicide statute turns assault into homicide the place prosecutors can solely show assault, however not homicide, as this case apparently teaches us. The states which hold the crimes separate are in all probability cautious of prosecutors who may attempt to wiggle a homicide conviction via the again door of the regulation the place a jury gained’t see it via the entrance door of the particular malice homicide statute.
This can be a verdict of unusual, unusual logic certainly.