Archives : 2009 : November
According to a Daily News story reported on November 17, 2009, murders are down in New York City. There were 399 murders compared to 452 homicides same time last year, which is an 11% decrease. Even with the number of cases down, the number of cases solved is now only around 50% compared to 70% two years ago and 92.5% in 1998. New York police sources who were interviewed in the article attribute the decrease in the number of cases being solved to the fact that there are fewer police officers and detectives, and there has been more emphasis and focus on fighting terrorism. Police investigators say that red tape, more paperwork and cracking down on overtime is making it more difficult to solve crimes as well.
If you are arrested for murder in New York, you can be charged under New York Penal Code, Article Section 125.25, with murder in the second degree or under Section 125.27 with murder in the first degree, which are Class A-1 felonies. Murder in the second degree is when a person causes or intends to cause the death of another person. A death that results during the commission of a felony such as robbery, rape whether the person is acting alone or in group is also considered murder in the second degree and is punishable with 15 years imprisonment life and a fine up to $15,000. Murder in the first degree is when a person causes or intends to cause the death of a person and that person is a police officer, a peace officer, employee of a correctional institution, a person who was a witness to a crime and the death was intended so the witness could not testify or was retribution for previous testimony of a crime or to preventing or influence the person not to testify by killing an immediate family member, there is a contract for murder between the defendant and another person, the defendant acted in an unusually cruel manner by inflicting torture on the victim, the victim was a judge or the defendant committed an act of terrorism causing the victim’s death. You could face a sentence of 15-25 years in prison, a life sentence without parole or the death sentence for a first degree murder conviction.
On November 19, 2009, the New York Court of Appeals overturned the murder convictions of two men, Danny Colon, 45 and Anthony Ortiz, 39 who have each been serving prison sentences of 19 years for the drive-by-shooting and murders of two men and two others who were injured on December 8, 1989 in lower Manhattan. The incident was said to have been drug related. The two defendants received 25 years to life sentences. The Appeals Court has ordered new trials for the men ruling that the Manhattan prosecutor improperly withheld information from the defense attorneys and misled the jury.
At the 1993 trial in the New York State Supreme Court, the prosecution presented to witnesses, one was Anibal Vera, who was a childhood friend of Colon. Vera testified that Colon confessed to the killings and that Ortiz helped him. Vera was cooperating with prosecutors because he had been arrested for drug possession in 1990. The prosecutor in the Colon and Ortiz cases, Ms. Finerty, told jurors she did not help or have anything to do with the lenient two and one-half year to five year sentence that Vera received for his conviction. However, Judge Graffeo wrote in the recent Appellate decision that Ms. Finerty helped relocate Vera’s grandmother and that she failed to give defense lawyers notes from her interviews with two witnesses who identified other men as the killers. The Manhattan district attorney’s office is standing by the convictions which they claim were obtained fairly.
A charge of murder in the second degree or murder in the first degree in New York is a serious crime. It is recommended that you hire a New York criminal defense attorney to defend you. If the crime was committed and there was another person involved or committed in a group and you were part of the group, the attorney can argue a defense that you did not commit it or aid in the crime, that you were not armed with a deadly weapon and had no evidence or reason to believe that any others in the group were carrying a deadly weapon or were going to commit murder or seriously injure the victim. Other defenses that your attorney can argue if you are accused of committing a murder crime alone are insanity, duress or self-defense in order to get the charges reduced and dismissed. The attorney may challenge the testimony of forensic experts such as medical examiners, ballistics, fingerprint examiners, toxicolologists, chemists and crime scene investigators or argue that the prosecuting attorney withheld evidence or violated other procedural rules when applicable to get the charges dismissed.
New Florida Bill Now Includes Crimes Against Homeless Persons as Hate Crimes
Under a new addition to Florida’s existing hate crime statute effective October 1, 2010, crimes against homeless persons are now also considered hate crimes. Last year, Maryland became the first state to actually classify the attacks as hate crimes, with Florida following this year. Florida has led the country in the number of attacks against homeless persons for the last four out of five years. Florida is also one of the largest states, together with the District of Columbia, to include these types of crimes as hate crimes.
Penalties and Case Examples
Penalties under the new Florida bill for any hate crime have been raised one degree from the previous penalties, except for the maximum penalty for a second-degree murder charge, which is already life in prison. These increased penalties follow after two years ago a homeless man was attacked in Pompano Beach by four people who played the attack on YouTube. The suspects pleaded no contest to misdemeanor battery and received jail sentences ranging from a year of probation to 364 days in jail. The maximum sentence received was a year in jail. However, assailants committing similar crimes under the new law today would receive a jail sentence of up to five years.
Another hate crime involving a homeless person occurred on the West Coast of Florida last year when a homeless veteran, Daniel Case, was murdered by two gang members who beat him to death with a baseball bat and a golf club while he was sleeping behind a building in Bradenton, Florida. One of the suspects was sentenced to 30 years in prison after pleading guilty to second-degree murder, and the other suspect is still awaiting trial. Mr. Case was one out of five homeless people who were murdered in hate crimes in Florida last year according an annual reported prepared by Donovan’s Washington, D.C. based coalition. The coalition report also reflected that a total of 16 homeless people were attacked in Florida last year.
It is too soon to see if the new law will reduce the number of hate crimes in Florida. The classification of what constitutes hate crimes in Florida has Tampa detectives looking into whether an incident that occurred on November 10, 2009 involving the arrest by Tampa police of a U.S. Marine Reservist Jasen D. Bruce for attacking alleged victim Alexios Marakis for being an Arabic terrorist could be classified as a hate crime. Besides attacks against homeless persons, Florida’s hate crimes statute classifies attacks motivated by race, color, ancestry, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, mental or physical disability and age as hate crimes.
The charges against Mr. Bruce were aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. The victim was a visiting Greek Orthodox Priest from Crete, Greece who made a wrong turn off the 275 Freeway exit into Seaport Channelside Apartments on Twiggs Street. When Mr. Marakis left his car to ask the suspect for assistance, the suspect started beating him with a tire iron and hit him over the head, then chased him for three blocks to the corner of Madison Avenue and Meridian Avenue. The suspect called 911 during the chase and reported that an Arabic man tried to rob him and that he was trying to apprehend the suspect to take him into custody. When Tampa police arrived on the scene, the suspect changed his story and said the man was a terrorist. The victim was taken to Tampa General, interviewed by Tampa police through the hospital’s interpreter, treated and released. The Police then went to the suspect’s apartment where they tried to question him while his lawyer was present. The suspect was uncooperative according to the police.
If you are charged with a hate crime, you should seek the assistance of a criminal defense attorney who may be able to argue other legal defenses such as aggravated battery, mistaken identity, self defense and false accusations depending upon the circumstances surrounding your case to get the charges reduced.
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