Homicide - What to Do When You or a Loved one is Facing Murder or Manslaughter Charges - Part 5
Have you or someone you care about been charged with murder, manslaughter, or another homicide-related offense? If so, you're in the right place.
North Carolina Attorney Bill Powers has been representing clients charged with murder and other homicide-related offenses his entire career. In this episode, Attorney Powers answers the questions that matter to you when you when you or a loved one is facing a murder or homicide offense.
In murder cases, who knows? They may have a tap on your phone, I don't know. That's why we want to get you in to the office. We also encourage, the vast majority of these people that call are family members, loved ones, and someone that they care about's in jail, and they are reaching out to seek assistance. The first thing I tell the family members, realize that you have no rights or privileges regarding attorney and client privilege, talking to your loved one, your son, your daughter, your family member. Don't be talking about this on the jail phone.
Don't be talking about this on the telephone. Now, recently we've changed how things work in Charlotte, where you don't really get to see people in person anymore, it's all done digitally. I don't know if you know this, but I don't particularly like it. I like it as an option. I liked it as an either or. I don't like it as a, "This is your only choice," but it's done as a video conference.
Well, how hard is it to tape that, or record that? So you need to realize that communications made with family members are not necessarily protected, and I've seen cases, I've done murder cases where they roll out a table. They've got some sort of a device that plays the audio or video, and there's the jail recording. It's the recording of the person accused talking to the loved one, and admitting certain things. I've seen it, and it's high drama in court.
It's, the jury hears it, and then when the jury is trying to infer, they're trying to gather what was in the mind, and they hear the person speaking, and their tone, and being calm as opposed to upset, and heat of passion, and maybe plotting, or what appears to be plotting, or planning, it doesn't go well with the jury. I tell people, "Stop talking." One of the things I say everyday is, you know the saying, "Don't just stand there. Do something?" Don't just do something, stand there. That's the best advice I can give you.
Speak to a lawyer, whether it's us or somebody else. Get the lawyer into the jail if possible to visit the person. Sometimes that's worthwhile. And I tell the client, "Everything we talk about is confidential. I don't want you speaking with anyone else in the jail cell. I don't want you talking to law enforcement. The only people that you have attorney client privilege are your attorneys, are your people who work in our office."
Robert Ingalls: Now, let's say that I am in Maryland the weekend of a murder, and I come home, and the police show up at my house and they want to ask me a few questions about that murder. In that moment, I know I wasn't there. I know I have a rock solid alibi. I was with my mother, what have you.
Bill Powers: Right.
Robert Ingalls: Maybe she's not a great alibi because I'm relatively sure that she'd say whatever she needed to do to keep me out of prison, but if I'm in that moment and I know I have nothing wring, is there any harm in speaking to the police in that moment?
Bill Powers: Yes, 'cause you don't know all of what they're looking for or at. You may not think this is fair, and I'm not commenting on this aspect, but police officers are allowed to not tell the truth on an investigation. It would be very difficult to do an investigation where you just blindly accept an answer. They're allowed to see your level of involvement.
You may have an alibi that you were in Maryland at the time, but you may have put steps in place that caused the murder in the first place. You see these in the murder for hire cases, where someone thinks they're smart, and they can outsmart the police. They go to a movie, and make a big splash of things, and the whole time they're working behind the scenes. I just don't think it's a good idea in those circumstances. That's not to say that police are terrible people.
They have a job to do. They're investigating. And don't kid yourself. The people that they have doing homicide investigations are really, really, really good at what they do. They tend to be most personable in my experience. They're very good talkers. They're very good communicators. They get people talking. They tend to be very, very, very smart. This isn't some out of the basic law enforcement training cadet rookie that they're throwing capital homicide on.
These are people that have been in the system for year, after year, after year, after year. They have a particular level of training. This isn't just a matter of learning how to shoot a gun and put handcuffs on somebody. They are trained on interrogation, investigation techniques. They have training, particularized and specialized training on DNA or collection of evidence, or blood spatter evidence. And they have a lot of years, normally, there are exceptions, but normally they tend to be the best, and the brightest, and the most experienced detectives.
Robert Ingalls: They're kind of bringing psychological warfare to your door?
Bill Powers: I haven't really thought about it that way. I guess. I have a cousin who is a detective. He's a homicide detective in Alabama, and he actually just got a promotion. Congratulations. He's actually one of the smartest people I've ever met, probably scores out on MENSA, or one of the genius scales. And I wouldn't want him investigating me for a speeding ticket let alone a murder. He's so darn quick, and smart, and he tells me they go to classes, and when you're talking to a person if you look down and to the right it means this thing. There's a psychological, or in the military they call it psych ops or whatever.
There is an aspect of that. I hadn't really thought of it as warfare. Maybe they do. I don't know. Good question.
Robert Ingalls: Well, and one of the reasons I bring that up is, I know North Carolina, over the last 10 years, has gotten a lot of national attention for inmates that had been sentenced to life without parole, or had been sentenced to death, and it turned out that they had been wrongfully convicted.