Monday, December 6, 2010

Comments On The Fourth Amendment Question

When the attorney’s are asking questions of the potential jurors the questions (as much as the answers) can be very revealing. 

Ms. Dexter, the defense attorney, for instance asks the following of nearly every prospective judge: (This is an approximation):

“Would you be able to follow the law as it pertains to arson if you knew that one of the elements of the crime of first degree arson was that the building burned  had to be one other than the one the accused lived in?”

Similarly there was this question: 

Would you be able to follow the law as it pertains to first degree arson if you knew that an element of first degree arson is that the building itself has to be lit on fire?”

I wrote them down as best I could and then I looked up a definition of First Degree Arson in NC:

(This is just something I pulled off the web.  I’m looking for more detailed and specific definitions.  I anyone has one they think I can use please send me the quote or a link).

     Arson was defined at common law as the malicious burning of the dwelling of another, while house burning was burning your own house and endangering the property of others. In most states, arson has been extended to include burning structures besides dwellings, burning your own property for illegal purposes, and damage caused by a fire or an explosion. Now if someone burns his/her home to collect the insurance, since the insurance is higher than the depressed real estate value ,that would be arson. Other examples of arson would be to burn or bomb a place of worship in a hate crime, or burn a building in revenge for a refusal to sell it. If a person burns down his own home as a form of cheap demolition and accidentally sets half the neighborhood on fire, that may or may not be arson, depending on the laws of the state.

It seems from these questions that Ms. Dexter will, in her defense, be focusing on the fact that Ms. Mangum lived at the house that was supposedly burned and since the charge of arson specifically calls for the burning of the house of another person that arson is the wrong charge.  In some definitions I have seen it also states that there must be actually fire damage to the house not just smoke damage.  If Crystal burned the clothes in the bathtub as she is accused of doing then they will have to prove that parts of the house actually caught on fire not just the clothes in the tub.  This is assuming that they can even show that it was Crystal who burned the clothes or that clothes were burned at all. 

The defense attorney requested, when she was trying to have the evidence suppressed due to Crystal’s Fourth Amendment Rights having been violated, had the two officers separated so that there would be no question if they were coordinating their testimony.  However, it became clear at one point that the male officer caught on to what he needed to say.  Ms. Dexter repeated stated that when Crystal told the officers that she was alright and didn’t need their help that they should have left right away.  After her questions focused on this for a while the male officer said that at one point they “turned to leave”.  He had been under questioning for 45 minutes at that point and had never said anything about even thinking about leaving.  To the contrary he and his partner tried to argue that they stayed and were required to stay in order to make sure she was not in any danger.  Then all of a sudden the male officer remembers that they had “turned to go” but were stopped by a knock at the door that turned out to be the other party to the fighting, Milton Walker.   

All that testimony was given under oath so I assume it can be brought into the main trial.  We’ll see if they can keep their story straight.

The Fourth Amendment To The US Constitution
'The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.'

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