I was reading the OC Register online the other day and decided to read some of the comments on the article written by Larry Welborn dated May 26, 2007. While the majority of the comments are somewhat judgmental, there were many who had convicted and sentenced these individuals without hearing any evidence. There wasnt one comment that suggested the readers reserve judgment. For those who have not followed the story, here is the Readers Digest version.
WHO: Nanette Packard of Ladera Ranch and Eric Naposki of Connecticut have been charged with PC 187, First Degree Murder with the special enhancement of Murder for Financial Gain. This means, if both defendants are convicted they can be sentenced to death, or with life in prison without the possibility of parole.
WHAT: Packard and Naposki are accused of murdering Bill McLaughlin a very wealthy inventor of a medical device. Packard was the live-in girlfriend of McLaughlin but also allegedly carried on an affair with Naposki, a former NFL player.
WHEN: December 14, 1994, Newport Beach, California.
WHY: The OCDAs theory is that Packard and Naposki killed McLaughlin to collect a $1 Million life insurance policy McLaughlin had set up for Packard. In addition, Packard had written herself close to $250,000 worth of checks (she was convicted) from McLaughlins bank account close in time to the murder Here are a few of the comments posted along with the article.
-why do you keep going off about abused women re: this story? she took advantage of this man and abused him in a sense, then softened the blow of abuse with a few gunshot blastsbut he allowed that in his lustful stupidity.
-From what Ive heard- and Ive heard a lot. She is a bch, and she had it coming to her. What foolish neighbors and friends would offer their money so foolishly? FOOLED!!! WAKE UP!! The DA would not have arrested her 20 years on had they not enough evidence to convict her. She just managed to get away with it, start a new life, and stupid enough to stay in the area flaunting her life.
-My guess is they must have a solid case (at this time) to haul her in after all these years.
Are these the same people I see huddled outside the court, wearing juror badges? The same people who tell the judge they can be fair and impartial? The same people who try so hard to appear as the perfect juror?
As a criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor, the fact that people would write such statements is disturbing. The United States judicial system is set up so that an accused is viewed innocent, until proven guilty. To assume guilt, simply on an arrest is contrary to our system, ignorant and wrong on so many levels.
First of all, all you have to do is open up a newspaper every now and again and read stories about people being released from custody for crimes they did not commit. To suggest that every arrest and every prosecution is only done when there is a solid case is laughable. Clearly, those who subscribe to this view have neither been falsely accused of anything nor have they ever talked to a criminal attorney or judge.
As a prosecutor, I dismissed several cases where the person accused just plain didnt do the crime. I can also tell you that not all of my colleagues in the prosecutors office would have done the same thing. The motivations for false accusations vary from child custody issues, jealousy, mental illness and innocent people remembering events incorrectly or misidentifying a suspect. Regardless of the reason, people are locked up everyday in this country for crimes they did not commit.
As a defense attorney I have defended people who have been wrongly accused. There is nothing more terrifying for a criminal defense attorney to sit in trial with a person they truly feel is not guilty. The pressure to right the wrong, to make sure a person is not going to suffer consequences for an act they did not commit. Consequences ranging from loss of a job to lifetime incarceration.
Second, why have a jury system where proof beyond a reasonable doubt is the yardstick for convictions if we are not going to follow it? How about, so we dont send innocent people to prison. So we dont turn innocent peoples lives upside down and ruin what they have worked so hard for.
Lastly, what is a better system…..convicting an innocent person or letting a guilty person go free? And, the answer if you were the innocent person?
This blog is not being written to suggest the guilt or innocence of either party. Rather, it is an attempt to get people to weigh evidence, evidence provided by both sides, and the law before rendering a verdict. Simply put, this is the least you would want from your peers if you were sitting in the defendants seat next to me.