Burlington County, NJ Law Blog

Thursday, February 25, 2016

4 Key Defense Issues Exposed in ‘Making a Murderer’

By now, most have seen (or at least heard of) the controversial docu-series entitled Making a Murderer, which is featured on the streaming television service Netflix. While the documentary has been criticized and heralded alike (depending on who you ask), it has at the very least exposed several issues common to homicide defense that we strive to eliminate every day. The following takes a brief look at four of the most common defense obstacles as highlighted in Making a Murderer, followed by sound advice if you are unfortunately facing a similar plight.

            #1: Unsecured crime scenes -- Over and over, the defense in Making a Murderer pointed to the fact the local law enforcement officials -- who were directed not to conduct the investigation due to conflicts of interest -- entered and tromped around the alleged crime scenes close to one dozen times, often rearranging vital evidence and potentially dragging in contaminants from other areas. As defense attorneys, we work tirelessly to ensure our clients are not implicated by evidence that may or may not have been present at the crime scene at the time of the alleged incident, and will strenuously object to the introduction of any evidence possibly tainted by an unsecured crime scene.

            #2: Evidence tampering -- In the documentary, blood evidence was discovered in storage that had presumably been tampered with -- as evidenced by the broken seal and puncture mark at the top of the vial. In Making a Murderer, the theory was that law enforcement stole the sample (which was from a 1980’s rape case) in order to plant the defendant’s blood around the crime scene. However, evidence tampering can also occur in more innocuous settings, such as in the testing and sampling of seized drugs or in the blood alcohol testing of a DUI suspect. Regardless of the surrounding circumstances, evidence of tampering will not be tolerated and we will similarly strenuously object to an attempts to introduce biological evidence that may be compromised.

            #3: Lack of counsel -- Perhaps one of the most startling aspects of the Making a Murderer timeline is the aggressive interrogation tactics implemented to garner a confession from a minor child with a limited IQ. Not only did the child not have counsel present, but his parent was not allowed in the room either. As experienced criminal defense attorneys, we know our clients’ rights to counsel -- particularly when the interrogation suspect is of limited cognition or a minor. Any “confessions” gleaned using these tactics are, under the law, not admissible in court -- and we will argue as such as strenuously as possible.

             #4: Prosecutorial issues -- Since the defendant’s trial, the prosecutor has since been disbarred for engaging in inappropriate communications with a victim in a subsequent domestic violence case. However, before and during the Making a Murderer trial, there was questionable conduct by the prosecutor involved, as well as his team of investigators. If we ever suspect such misconduct, we will work diligently to alert the court and take the appropriate steps to mitigate the issue.

Contact an experienced homicide defense attorney today!  If you are facing serious felony charges, please contact the experienced professionals of Sitzler Law in New Jersey today: 609-267-1101. 

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