When two people commit to the same crime, it’s an obvious sign that one of them is lying for one reason or another. But could two people be convicted for the same crime if only one person could have committed it? As it turns out, yes. Here’s what would you should know according to San Diego criminal lawyer Peter M. Liss.
While we previously discussed how the twins in American Horror Story could not be convicted and sent to prison if one of the girls committed a murder and the other was innocent, the basic legal concept of not punishing an innocent person for someone else’s crime doesn’t apply when there is sufficient evidence to convict each of them separately. Detective shows often feature two people confessing to the same crime, proving that one or both of them are trying to protect someone else from getting convicted. In TV, that usually leads detectives to work harder to find out who actually committed the crime, but in real life, both people could be convicted. If evidence is presented to prove conclusively that one or both of them did not commit the crime, they may be acquitted or exonerated despite their claims, but without evidence to prove their lack of guilt, someone who confesses may be convicted -even if they did not actually commit the crime.
In fact, while a Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco declared the idea “deplorable,” they ruled that it was completely constitutional for two people to go to prison for the same crime even when prosecutors know only one of them could be guilty -even without a confession. The court further ruled that the prosecution is under no obligation to show that another person is simultaneously being charged with the same crime or has already been convicted. They explained that no law prohibits the prosecution from making inconsistent arguments to more than one jury as long as they do not falsify evidence in the trials.
In other words, if prosecutors have enough evidence to convict two different people for the same crime, they can go forward with both trials. This is another example of why it is so important to have the right San Diego defense attorney on your side. After all, if the evidence is so vague to convict someone else for the same crime, it shouldn’t be considered strong enough to leave jurors without a reasonable doubt. In the case that appeared before the appeals court, you have to wonder if the jury would have convicted the second man found guilty for the crime if his lawyer showed them that someone else was already convicted for the offense.
Many criminal lawyers in San Diego and throughout the rest of the country believe that there should be laws preventing prosecutors from acting this way. If they know that only one person committed a crime, they should not be able to prosecutor more than one person for the offense knowing that the other person or persons being charged with the crime are innocent. Unfortunately, until such a law is passed at the state or federal level, this type of deplorable activity can continue happening.
The right San Diego criminal defense attorney can be critical in these cases by either entering evidence that the prosecution is charging someone else with the crime at the same time or by proving that there is evidence that someone else just as easily be guilty of the crime in question. If you believe you are under investigation for any crime, please call (760) 643-4050 or (858) 486-3024 to schedule a free initial consultation with Peter M. Liss.
Creative Commons Image by Alexander P. Kafka