A Horrible Story

Anyone living in central Pennsylvania has heard about the story of the three week old child who was abused by her parents. I am not going to go over the details since it is pretty horrific. Here is a pretty good article about the case. This story hits very close to home. I went to school with the father, albeit he was a few years younger (I believe he graduated with my brother). I hope these two are punished to the full extent of the law.

However, some people have decided that maybe the law will be too lenient and the punishments should be a bit more harsh. Here are a few of the Facebook comments that seem a bit terrifying.

One of the more common punishments was sterilization/tubal ligation/castration/vasectomy, or any other method of preventing a person from reproducing. I get that people are angry, but you have to wonder if they consider the ramifications of a punishment like that? What precedent does that set? Does that apply to anyone found guilty of abusing a child? What if years later they are exonerated? Again, I am not saying these two are innocent (it seems pretty open & shut, since they admitted to being the only ones to care for her at the time). Unfortunately, we do need to sometimes not allow our emotions to rule us and think about a bigger picture.

Both of these comments are angry that a lawyer would defend them. This is something you hear any time there is a high profile criminal case “how could a lawyer even defend that monster?” Well for one thing, it is their job. If you work for the public defenders office, you do not have a choice. Or if there is no public defender available, a judge can assign the case to a criminal lawyer in the area (the infamous Hillary Clinton case where she defended a child rapist is a good example). This is something that is in the Constitution. Funny how when it comes to guns, everyone can quote the Constitution, but ask them about the 6th Amendment and they stare at you with a blank expression.

“In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.”

Another comment was railing against how the defense attorney was trying to have the conspiracy charges thrown out. People seemed to think that was utterly ridiculous. Well, a lawyer has to do the best job possible for their client. If not, during an appeal, if it can be shown that the lawyer did not do everything in his/her power to help the client, that can be cause for a retrial (I think, hopefully Jason will weigh in on the topic for us). Also, if it is found that the lawyer basically threw the case so the person would lose, the lawyer would be disbarred.

Again, people do not take the big picture into consideration. Imagine if you are falsely accused of murdering someone. You get a lawyer who does not believe you and he basically dismisses certain pieces of evidence that could help prove your innocence. If there were no rules against something like that, you could end up in jail. Hell, you could have district attorneys or victims families paying off defense attorneys to throw the case. Does that sound like a good idea?

Here we have the “kill them” crowd. I assume that they would at least wait until the trial is over (there were many other comments saying they shouldn’t even have a trial, just public execution). I guess this depends on where you stand on the death penalty. I honestly do not know where I stand. I used to think I was for it, but after hearing enough stories about people being falsely convicted, I am no longer so sure. This is not me saying that I think these two could be innocent (I hate that I have to keep reiterating this point, but I know someone will read this and go “AHHHH, JOSH THINKS THEY ARE INNOCENT!”), instead thinking about the bigger picture.

If you read the comments, no one says anything about them being innocent. No one ever mentions them being innocent until proven guilty. No one seems to be in denial. I think the initial story did not mention the cause of the torn rectum, whereas this article does say that the father told police he may have inserted a finger into her rectum to help clean out the diarrhea. Yes, it is horrible. But why does this person think it has anything to do with being liberal? If no one says what? Even in a case like this, someone has to turn it into liberal vs. conservative. Insanity.

And finally, we come to the worst of the worst…

This guy deleted the comment (or maybe Gant Daily removed it). Explain to me how this would work? Would they bring in a convicted rapist and murderer? Does that guy have his sentence reduced or do they add more time on for this murder? Would they want to have a prison guard do these acts? Is this guy volunteering? If so…seems like he might have some severe mental problems. He just casually tosses rape out there like it is the easiest thing in the world to do. Where would you set her on fire? In the prison? That would smell awful. I cannot imagine a bunch of guards wanting to smell that for a few days. You know the scarier part? Ten other people liked this comment!

This is a horrible crime. I cannot stress enough how much I hope the justice system punishes them harshly. I cannot imagine this going to trial though, they will almost certainly shoot for a plea deal. And no, I have no clue what an appropriate punishment would be, but I can tell you that murder/rape/torture/sterilization are not the answer.

2 thoughts on “A Horrible Story

  1. Josh,

    As a defense attorney, I appreciate your analysis here. I do want to help you out on the procedure, although, you have the gist of how this works.

    So, let’s assume that an attorney does a poor job defending their client during the course of a regular case, just like this one. The attorney takes the case to trial because they cannot reach a plea deal with the District Attorney (or because the client states they are innocent and will not take a deal or whatever) and the defense counsel loses the trial. Then, the same defense counsel (or someone else if the client decides to hire someone else) is tasked with the filing the appeal. Your first appeal is “of right,” meaning that you are entitled to it no matter what, as long as you comply with the filing requirements and deadlines.

    Let’s assume that there were no meaningful legal issues that the defendant could win on and the Superior Court decides to let the jury’s decision stand. Then the defendant, typically through counsel, can ask the PA Supreme Court to consider the case. Be mindful that the PA SCT only takes about 120 to 150 cases a year, so there is not a high probability that this would happen. Typically your case is done after the first appeal.

    After that, you could appeal to the US SCT; however, they only take 80 cases a year from across the entire US. So virtually no chance there. At that point, you move on to post-conviction collateral relief.

    It is at this point that the defendant would then be able to assert claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. These claims are governed by specific and strict rules set by Pennsylvania Law. The act is known as the Post Conviction Relief Act.

    Through the PCRA, the performance of counsel or a new constitutional issue is brought before the original trial court. At this point, there will be a new attorney because for the most part the defendant is now alleging that the prior counsel made some error that was so serious that they were denied the effective assistance of counsel and that the error was so egregious that the court cannot rely on the prior jury or judge’s adjudication of guilt or innocence. This is a high bar and is tough to win.

    After the trial court renders a decision on the effectiveness of counsel or the change in the constitution that has a significant enough impact on the law that the prior conviction cannot stand (this is too complicated to get into here), then the appellate procedure starts anew on these issues. You cannot relitigate anything that has already been decided, but you can argue about the new issues discussed through the PCRA Petition.

    Finally, you are dead right about the defense counsel thing. Everyone loves the constitution and no one seems to know what is in it.


  2. Three observations:

    1) Why in the world are you still on Facebook? Stuff like this drove me away.

    2) People only know three parts of the Bill of Rights: Freedom of Speech, Right to Bear Arms, Freedom of Religion for Christians.

    3) Crying Jordan wants to punish a crime by committing a similar crime and a worse crime. (Really good analysis on that bit, btw.)

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