Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Brooklyn Park Daycare Shooting -- Murder in the 2nd Degree?

So, as most of you have probably heard, there is a suspect in custody for the April 9th shooting of three people at a Brooklyn Park, MN day care.  A few emails have been trickling in wondering why the charge was for 2nd degree murder and not 1st degree.  I'll go over some of the specifics of the case (they get a bit gruesome, so be forewarned), and then say how I would charge the case if I were the Hennepin County attorney.

This whole incident stems from an accusation of felony sexual assault against the suspect, Eddie Mosley of St. Louis, MO.  Mosley allegedly drove to Brooklyn Park from St. Louis with a friend with the intent to seek out his teenage accuser and kill her in an effort to silence her claims.  (Editorial note:  When your plan for clearing your name from one criminal accusation involves committing another more heinous crime, it's time to reconsider this strategy.  Take a few breaths and regroup.)  Mosley apparently thought that the girl would be at DeLois Brown's day care center before school, so he went there in search of her.  When he arrived, the girl was not at the house.  What happened next is still something of a mystery, but Brown and her parents, James and Clover Bolden, were found murdered in an execution-style manner by a neighbor.  The three were found dead laying on a bed.  Mosley was gone by the time authorities showed up at the scene.

With those essential elements, we can look at how this crime could be charged.  In Minnesota, 2nd degree murder is intentional murder without the element of premeditation.  The maximum sentence for 2nd degree murder is 40 years, and even though there are three counts against the defendant, the sentence would run concurrent to each other.  1st degree murder in Minnesota is intentional murder with the element of premeditation and carries with it a life sentence.  The premeditation is the only element that separates these two crimes.  (Note:  There is an unintentional murder in the 2nd degree statute in Minnesota as well which has the same punishments, but it doesn't apply to this situation, so let's ignore that for the time being.)

An interesting aspect of the premeditation requirement of 1st degree murder is that it's not necessary for you to have intended to kill the person you actually killed.  Minnesota statute 609.185(a)(1) reads:

"(a) Whoever does any of the following is guilty of murder in the first degree and shall be sentenced to imprisonment for life: (1) causes the death of a human being with premeditation and with intent to effect the death of the person or of another;"

In the case of the day care killings, if the police are correct in their assertion that Mosley went to the home with the intent to murder his accuser in another case, that would seem to be sufficient premeditation to warrant a murder 1 charge as opposed to the murder 2 charges currently against him.  Mosley may not have intended to kill the people he ended up killing, but if he indeed did intend to kill someone, than he would be guilty of 1st degree murder.

My hunch is that prosecutors in Hennepin County have made the decision that an initial charge of murder in the 2nd degree is more likely to hold up in court while they continue their investigation of the murders.  It's entirely possible that Mosley will end up being charged with 3 counts of murder in the 1st (I'd even go so far as to call it likely), but perhaps prosecutors were afraid that an initial charge of the harsher crime would result in the suspect being released for lack of evidence.  Since they don't have to include the element of premeditation in their murder 2 charges, it makes it a little easier to charge.  As the investigation continues, if the prosecution comes across more evidence that lends itself to premeditation of murder on the part of the defendant, they can bring the harsher charges at that time.

So, while some people may be upset right now that the man who allegedly murdered three innocent people in cold blood is being charged with "only" murder 2, the case is far from over.  I'll keep an eye on this case as it goes on and give updates from time to time, especially if any changes in the charges occurs.

If you or a love one have been charged with a crime (any crime, not just murder!) or are the subject of a criminal investigation, you need the assistance of a qualified Minnesota criminal defense attorney.  Don't wait for the police to come to your door with handcuffs to call a lawyer.  Speak with one today in order to increase your chances of success in defending your innocence.

As always, none of the material on Minnesota Criminal Defense Blog is intended as legal advice or legal advertising, nor does viewing this website create an attorney/client relationship between the author and the reader.  If you are in need of criminal defense advice, stop surfing the internet and speak to a licensed attorney in your jurisdiction.

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