Pre-trial Motions

[Editor’s Note: Although this pertains to the Felix Garcia case, I wanted Pat to post it on the scroll, because I believe we can all benefit from any insight as to the inner workings of the Court system. After all, forewarned is forearmed, and where the Courts are concerned, there but for the grace of God…]

[Author’s Note: This is sort of a monotonous time for most everyone involved. I say most as you still have those attorneys who find every aspect of the trial process exciting. At the September 25, 1981 hearing where Felix was given court appointed counsel, Attorney Raul Palomino entered a Not Guilty Plea on behalf of his client/defendant. With that, the pre-trial motions start. I will highlight some of them that I hope will give you, the reader, some insight into the motion aspect of a trial. I will leave out mentioning the Criminal Rule numbers, Constitutional amendments, any mundane speech, to try to make it informative yet not boring.]

Image Credit: http://outofthejungle.blogspot.com/2010/09/debtors-prison-makes-comeback.html

1. Demand For Discovery.

This is where the defense demands the State to disclose within 15 days all the information they have against his client. It is pretty standard in every one:

A)   Names of all persons of interest relevant to the offense charged and to any defense with respect thereto.

B)   Any statements made by any person listed in preceding paragraph.

C)   Any oral or written statement by the defendant.

D)   Any tangible papers or objects obtained or belonged to the defendant.

E)   Any material or information provided by a confidential informant and name.

F)   Any electrical surveillance or wiretapping of the premise or conversations to which the defendant was a party to.

G)   Any search and seizure of any documents.

H)   Reports or statements of experts made in connection with this case, including results of mental or physical examinations, and scientific tests, experiments or comparisons.

I )   Any material information within the State’s possession or control which tends to negate the guilt of the Defendant as to the offense charged, or to        punishment, or the credibility of the State’s witnesses.

What the Defense here is requesting from the State is to inspect, copy, test and photograph this information so everyone begins the trial on equal ground. The Defense wants to know what the State knows that makes them certain they have the right person. The Defense then builds its defense on what it receives. If you heard the term Prosecutorial Misconduct, it generally stems from this request. The State may inadvertently or purposely leave out, misplace or hide information, or whatever, and because of it, the Defendant doesn’t get a fair trial. I might add that in return, the Defense shares their list of witnesses and exhibits with the State.

2. Motion For Statement Of Particulars.

This motion demands the State to show exactly what the evidence was that lead to an arrest of the Defendant. This motion is tailored to the alleged crime charged in the Indictment.

A)   Exact date on which the offense alleged in the Indictment occurred.

B)   Exact time on which the offense alleged in the Indictment occurred.

C)   Exact place or addresses where the offense alleged in the Indictment                        occurred.

D)   Particular description of the firearm which was allegedly utilized.

E)   Whether crime charged in the Indictment is predicated on the theory of

premeditated murder or felony-murder, and if on felony-murder, the type of  felony allegedly perpetrated at the time of the alleged homicide.

F)   Whether the Defendant was the actual perpetrator or an aider and abetter of  the offense alleged in the Indictment; if the Defendant was an aider and         abetter, whether or not the Defendant’s actions made him accountable for the    crime charged as an accessory before the fact or as a principal in the first             degree or as a principal in the second degree.

This is to pin down the State to exactness and not generalities or broadness. This can also be used as a factor if there has been a change in law during the period of the alleged transaction and the trial to determine, if found guilty, the degree of punishment at sentencing.

3. Motion For Statement of Particulars Relating To Aggravating Circumstances.

This case was filed as a Capital Felony (where the death penalty was a possibility). These trials are done in two phases –  Guilt Phase and Sentencing Phase. When the Defendant is found guilty, then the Sentencing Phase begins. At this juncture, the State will introduce aggravating circumstances to enhance the punishment – to prove that death is warranted. This motion is gleaning the proof the State intends to adduce at sentencing which is:

A)   Whether the State intends to prove that the Defendant has previously been  convicted of another Capital Felony or a Felony involving the use or threat of    violence to the person, and if so, the nature of the previous conviction, the          date thereof, the Court in which said conviction occurred, the style of the             case and case number, and any other relevant particulars.

B)   [ I’ll be more brief on the rest.] Whether the State intends to prove the            Defendant  knowingly created a great risk of death to any persons.

C)   Whether the State intends to prove the Capital Felony was committed while  the Defendant engaged in, an accomplice, or attempt to commit another               criminal act: robbery, rape, arson etc.

D)   Whether the State intends to prove the Capital Felony was committed for the purpose of avoiding or preventing lawful arrest or effecting an escape from   custody.

F)    Whether the State intends to prove the Capital Felony was committed for     pecuniary gain.

G)   Whether the State intends to prove the Capital Felony was committed to        disrupt or hinder lawful exercise of any governmental function or                             enforcement of laws.

H)   Whether the State intends to prove the Capital Felony was especially               heinous, atrocious or cruel.

This last particular  is generally the one the public is most acquainted with. And is the issue on appeal the most times before any court in a death sentence. There will be witnesses at the Sentencing Phase and the Defense will also ask the State for a list of their witnesses and experts, and what aggravating circumstance will they will be related to.

Just so you know, the Defense will introduce Mitigating circumstances at Sentencing to try to cancel out any enhancements towards death versus Life. We’ll get to that later.

Agree? Disagree? Please speak up.

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