MAKING A MURDERER: Pointing the Finger in Georgia
The Netflix documentary Making a Murderer brought to light several issues with our justice system. Two of the most important issues a defense attorney has to overcome is the “presumption of guilt” presented by the media, and the loss of exculpatory evidence caused by poor police investigations.
“Presumption of Guilt”
“All due respect to counsel, the state is supposed to start every criminal trial swimming upstream. And the strong current against which the state is swimming is the presumption of innocence.” – Dean Strang, co-defense counsel for Steven Avery.
Many times, the media will broadcast inflammatory stories regarding pending investigations. Regardless of the truth of the stories, they tend to irreparably tamper with the minds of the prospective jurors months or even years before the trial begins.
The law requires jurors to give the defendant the presumption of innocence, but many jurors are already biased against the defendant because he has been charged with a crime and is seated at the defense table. High-profile cases present an additional hurdle because the jurors have already heard many untrue facts about the case from the media.
We rarely encourage clients to make statements to police or media since those statements can be used against them at trial. In fact, the best way to truly prove one’s innocence to the public is to have a jury find you NOT GUILTY. However, every case is unique, and we use our experience with high-profile cases to develop a plan to counteract this media bias. Recently, our firm counseled Marcus Lewis, the Uber driver who was wrongly accused, and advised him to speak with the police with our support. He was exonerated in less than 24 hours, and no charges were ever filed from the police. Learn more about that case here: http://www.11alive.com/story/news/crime/2015/12/29/uber-driver-defends-reputation-after-social-media-allegations/78031302/
It Was the Other Guy
In Making a Murderer, Steven Avery’s attorneys were unable to accuse any specific person of committing the murder. Instead, they had to focus on the poor investigation conducted by the police in general. The Judge limited Steven’s defense due to Wisconsin law. There, a defendant cannot point their finger and allege that a third party committed the crime unless he can present evidence of the third party’s motif, opportunity, and a direct connection between the third person and the crime charged.
In Georgia, the standard is much lower than that in Wisconsin. The defense here only has to present evidence that “renders the desired inference that [the other guy] committed the crimes . . . more probable than would be that inference without the evidence.” Henderson v. State, 255 Ga. 687, 689 (Ga. 1986). All the defense needs is enough evidence “to raise a reasonable doubt of defendant’s guilt in the mind of a juror.” Essentially, the defense needs to present the jury with an alternative that makes a single juror question whether it is possible the defendant did not commit the crime, and that someone else did.
Even though Georgia has a lower standard than Wisconsin, it can still be tough to gather evidence that someone else committed the crime when the police have conducted a careless investigation. In these situations, it is imperative that we get involved as early as possible to ensure that we are able to do our own investigation and gather our own evidence before it is too late. If you have been charged with a crime, please contact our office today at 404-581-0999 for a FREE CONSULTATION in our office so that we can begin working on your case immediately.