Not enough evidence and our system of justice.

by: Matt Newburg

06/22/2016 04:30 PM EST
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By now you have heard that Jerry D. Jones, the district attorney for the 4th District Court for Louisiana has decided not to prosecute two Alabama football players who were in a car with marijuana and a gun.  The prosecutor indicated, on a court filing, that he would be dismissing the charges because there was "insufficient evidence."  So what does that mean? If you take that comment at face value, that means the prosecutor did not think he could prove his case beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.  Ethically, if that is the case, he must dismiss the case.  But his court filings do not match what he has recently told various media outlets.  

According to the website talkingpointsmemo.com, the district attorney said:

"The main reason that I'm doing this is that I refuse to ruin the lives of two young men who have spent their adolescence and their teenage years working and sweating while we were all home in the air conditioning," Jones said.

I am a criminal defense lawyer and won't lie, if these were my clients I would be celebrating with them because that is my job.  To represent my clients to the best of my ability.  I have not read the police reports but I have read some of the details through media outlets.  I am also not a licensed lawyer in the state of Louisiana. But, I do know, that like Michigan, Louisiana recognizes joint possession.  That means, in Louisiana more than one person can possess a single item.  So why is a defense attorney so upset with a dismissal of a case?  Because it reflects poorly on our system. The heart of our constitutional rights speak to be free from government involvement.  But it also requires that people be put on notice that certain actions could result in criminal charges and criminal penalty.  In this case, there may be an issue as to which of these 4 individuals actually put the gun under the drivers seat.  But the prosecutor didn't say that to the news media.  He said, on multiple occasions, that he didn't want these kids to have their lives ruined.  The only way their lives could have been ruined is if a conviction was obtained.  According to the court filings, there was not enough evidence for a conviction and you cannot possibly reconcile those two statements because they are diametrically opposed.  But let's not kid ourselves here.  A pillar of our criminal justice system is fairness and equality.  The system must be fair.  It must be fair to the people, whom according to Jerry D. Jones, sit in the air conditioning and those who sweat.  It must be fair to the people who are rich and poor.  Those who are athletes and "nerds".  The reality is the system is not fair and these statements by this particular prosecutor is a microcosm of what our system could be when put in the hands of the wrong person: unjust, unfair and totally biased.  

If I were a criminal defense lawyer practicing in Louisiana, specifically where Jerry D. Jones is the prosecutor, I would obtain all the reports filed in this case. I would then use them to my client's advantage.  Because the next time my client was in the car with someone else and something illegal was found in the car, I would casually remind Mr. Jones that there is not enough evidence to proceed under those facts.  Because, if Mr. Jones believed in an equal and fair justice system, he would be left with no choice but to dismiss the case that case, even if my client spent his childhood sitting in the air conditioning.  

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