Few details were available after police officers responding to a shots-fired complaint found a corpse in a local park.
At about the same time, another walker in the park, which is located in the 2700 block of Monty Bridge Road, found the victim’s body and called 9-1-1. That person was an acquaintance of the victim.
Police say the investigation is active and anyone with information regarding the homicide should contact the LaGrange Police Department or Troup County Crime Stoppers.
When police officers have no suspects, they usually compile a list of suspects with motive, means, or opportunity. In the above story, this list probably includes the witness who found the victim’s body. Then, they narrow the list until they identify a single suspect with motive, means, and opportunity. Finally, they interrogate and arrest the prime suspect.
Usually, two out of three won’t do. James Bond author Ian Fleming wrote that once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, and thrice is enemy action.
As far as investigators are concerned, anyone who knew the victim might have a motive. The closer the relationship, the stronger the possibility. Indeed, investigators often zero in on people like spouses and lovers, even if there’s little evidence to implicate them. More on that below.
Additionally, investigators go through the criminal record database. Anyone with a prior conviction, especially a violent crime conviction, might have a motive. If nothing else, these people often know something about the crime.
Rather predictably, anyone with a gun satisfies the means requirement. So, it’s easy to see how people get sucked into murder investigations. If Sam knew the victim, even on a casual, first name basis, and Sam owns a gun, Sam is probably a suspect.
Next, investigators verify alibis (opportunity). Significantly, officers advocate against defendants. If Sam was watching Netflix at home, it’s easy to check the use log and verify his alibi. But a Marietta criminal defense lawyer must take this step. Investigators won’t bother with it.
If Sam had motive, means, and opportunity, that’s usually sufficient to obtain a search warrant. In no-witness cases, investigators usually rely heavily on scientific evidence. DNA and fingerprints are usually reliable. Clothing fibers, microbes, and shoe prints are more science fiction than science fact.
Based on this evidence, and any witness statements implicating the defendant, investigators try to get a confession. Investigators must respect the defendant’s Fifth Amendment rights at all times. These rights include physical silence as well as verbal silence. Officers cannot force suspects to hand over computer passwords, pose for pictures, or appear in lineups.
Aside from perhaps sexual battery of a child, murder is probably the most serious offense in Georgia. Therefore, initial bail is very high in these cases, if the sheriff sets bail at all. In either case, a judge must usually set a reasonable bail amount at the arraignment.
At the bail portion of an arraignment hearing, a Marietta criminal defense lawyer brings up mitigating factors, such as the defendant’s contacts with the community and the amount of evidence against the defendant, to convince a judge to reduce bail or set a low amount.
We briefly mentioned scientific evidence above. This proof, without a confession or additional corroborating evidence, such as a witness’ lineup identification, usually isn’t enough proof to establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The law presumes that defendants with a good chance of clearing their names are less likely to flee the jurisdiction. Similarly, people with local jobs, friends, and families are less likely to leave it all and run away.
The underlying issue at a bail hearing is the defendant’s appearance at trial. Bail guarantees that appearance. Bail does not punish a defendant.
Lineup issues and search warrant issues, both of which were mentioned above, are two of the most common defenses in murder cases.
Eyewitness identifications are perhaps the most compelling and least reliable kind of evidence in a criminal trial. Many factors taint eyewitness identifications, including cross-racial bias. If a person of one ethnicity, like a white man, sees ten people of another ethnicity, like Hispanic men, who are all about the same weight, height, and age, all ten people appear identical.
This bias isn’t significant. But it is usually enough to create a reasonable doubt, which is all a Marietta criminal defense attorney must do.
Somewhat similarly, informant-provided information taints many search warrant applications. Generally, informers implicate suspects because officers promise them cash or leniency. Many people will say practically anything for love or money. Therefore, informer-provided information is usually unreliable, unless the informer has a solid prior track record or provides some corroborating proof.
Anonymous informants are often unreliable as well. If the tipster wouldn’t vouch for the information, there’s no reason for a judge to deem it reliable.
There’s a difference between accuracy and reliability. Accurate information could be unreliable. A broken clock displays the correct time twice a day.
Resolving Murder Cases
Plea bargains resolve most murder and other criminal cases. Murder is such a serious offense that probation is usually off the table, unless a Marietta criminal defense attorney intervenes.
If the evidence is weak, prosecutors are often willing to reduce murder charges to aggravated assault or another lesser included offense. That’s especially true if the murder victim had a poor reputation in the community and has no surviving family members out for vengeance. There’s a nickname for this defense, but we shouldn’t print it on a family-friendly website.
Alternatively, a Marietta criminal defense attorney might press for intensive probation. This special kind of probation includes burdensome conditions, such as GPS monitoring, that essentially place the defendant under house arrest. Other burdensome conditions include frequent drug tests, perhaps three a month, and a Fourth Amendment waiver that allows officers to randomly search the defendant’s home.
Georgia law allows judges to reduce or modify the terms and conditions of probation at almost any time. Therefore, if the defendant toes the line for a few months, a Marietta criminal defense lawyer often convinces a judge to ease the restrictive conditions. In some cases, the judge might even terminate probation altogether.
Murder charges are scary, but a way out may be available. For a free consultation with an experienced Marietta criminal defense attorney, contact The Phillips Law Firm, LLC. The sooner you reach out to us, the sooner we start working for you.