Friday, January 11, 2008

Triple Murder Charges Filed

One Year After A Triple Murder, Charges Are Filed

One year ago, on January 11, 2007, a triple murder took the lives of three people at their Janesville, Wisconsin home. Today, charges were filed against a suspect.

When charges lagged and were not immediately filed after the killing, the public began asking questions. As the weeks passed, many people were very upset over the district attorney's failure to file charges. In a Madison TV 3000 special segment, we discussed the burden of proof in a criminal trial, and compared that to the burden of proof required for an arrest. (The Burden of Proof - Beyond A Reasonable Doubt)

Today, the focus is on a one year delay in criminal charges. Why do prosecutors delay charging a person? What happens in the time between the crime and the date on which criminal charges are filed against a suspect?

In some instances, prosecutors choose to delay charges for a particular reason. While in other instances, a delay may be caused by some circumstance outside of the prosecutor's control. It could never be said that the act of filing charges on the one year anniversary date of a crime is not without impact, or that charges filed on the fifth anniversary of a crime send a very different message.

In some cases, a delay is a legal strategy, but most delays are caused by circumstances beyond the prosecutor's control such as when criminal records are not readily available, or the crime lab is backed up (see Wood Speaks Out On Criminal Lab Delays).

Whether criminal charges are filed immediately, the single most important factor to keep in mind is that everyone is innocent until proven guilty. Whether a prosecutor is quick to file charges or waits to file charges for some certain event to occur should not be construed as an inference of guilt or innocence.

Helpful information:
Wisconsin Criminal Trials - Proceedings explains the criminal trial process and jury selection
Wisconsin Circuit Court Access provides access to some circuit court records including criminal charges, arrests, and convictions
WIBA - Madison 1310
Wisconsin Statutes
Wisconsin Circuit Courts