In State v. Allen, Santa Ana Murder Charges Collapse on Judge's Misconduct

November 20, 2011
By The Law Offices of Vincent J. LaBarbera, Jr. on November 20, 2011 8:32 AM |

A murder defendant in Maryland went to trial twice and was convicted of robbery and murder. On appeal, he was granted a new trial because the judge told the jury that the defendant had been convicted of murder and robbery before and the jury found him guilty.

The appeals court reversed the felony murder conviction, agreeing that when the judge told jurors of the man's prior convictions, it essentially established the elements of murder for jurors to convict him.
Murder charges in Santa Ana are the most serious on the books. That's why, in California, a person can be sentenced to death or life in prison. When a person has been killed, and a defendant's freedom is on the line, everything must be handled with great detail.

In this case, it appears the judge made a mistake. Because of what's on the line, an experienced Santa Ana criminal defense lawyer must be hired to defend a person facing this tough charge.

In State v. Allen, Allen had been tried and convicted on charges of robbery and murder.

The case stemmed from a 2001 argument between two men that led to a fight. The defendant demanded that the victim drive him home after they met at the victim's home. The victim refused and the defendant took his keys and said he was going to drive himself home. After stabbing him with a knife, the defendant drove off, but crashed the car and was arrested.

During the first trial, the judge told jurors that they could find him guilty of felony murder whether or not they found that he intended to rob the victim before or after the murder. An appeals court found robbery as an "afterthought" can't be an underlying felony to support a conviction and death penalty case. The man was granted a new trial.

At the new trial, the defendant was once again wronged by the criminal justice system. This time, a judge told jurors in 2008 that the man had previously been convicted of second degree murder and robbery in connection with the incident. He told them they were there to determine if the man is guilty of first-degree murder.

The judge also told jurors, over objection from the defense, that he had already been convicted of robbery. By telling jurors the man had already been convicted of robbery -- the charge needed to prove felony murder -- he essentially had sealed the case for jurors. They convicted the man of felony murder.

Collateral estoppel in the criminal justice system means an issue can't be litigated twice after it's already been determined. In this case, the appeals court agreed that because the judge's instruction to jurors paved the way for them to convict, that the defendant should get a new trial, again.

If you are facing murder charges in Orange County, contact the Law Offices of Vincent J. LaBarbera Jr. to discuss your options. With three decades of experience, Attorney LaBarbera has argued more than 200 criminal trials and appeals. Call (714) 541-9668 for a confidential appointment to discuss your rights.

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State v. Green Highlights Self-Defense Expertise Needed in Orange County Murder Cases: October 13, 2011