Of Blood and Murder
74-year-old Willie called the police. He said: "I think I killed my best friend, Victor ."
When the police arrived, they found Victor facedown on the pavement. A gunshot pierced his heart and exited his back.
Willie told the police the previous night, he and Victor drank homemade moonshine. They watched vampire movies as they sat in his trailer. Willie had gotten very drunk. He had no recollection of shooting Victor. He remembered Victor showing him his knife, and he showed Victor his old top-break revolver.
When Willie woke from his drunken stupor, Victor was gone. There were puddles of blood and a blood trail led to the back door. Willie checked his revolver; it had been fired.
Willie followed the blood trail. It led to Victor's body. Willie then called the police, telling them he must've killed his friend. When they got there, he told them everything he knew.
The police arrested Willie. He was charged with murder. Willie made bond and was released from jail.
I explained this sounded like a case that should be negotiated and not tried. Willie didn't want a trial; he just wanted to get the lowest sentence he could.
Months went by as the court date loomed. I spoke to the prosecutor. I can't recall the exact offer, but it was around five years in prison. Willie told me was going to take this. I thought was the end of things...
...Until we got a surprise.
The police had swabbed the various bloodstains at Willy's trailer. The bloodstains were sent to the lab for analysis. All the blood came back as being the victim's blood-except one bloodstain.
This bloodstain was a woman's blood.
In the crime scene photographs, I noticed several "Virginia slims" cigarette butts in an ashtray.
I asked Willie why there was woman's blood in his trailer.
He also wasn't going to admit to murder when he didn't know if he committed the crime.
So whose blood was it?
Why would there woman's blood of the crime scene?
I called my investigator Declan. Declan discovered Victor had an ex-girlfriend Kim. Kim lived across the street from Willie.
Declan spoke to Kim, asking her if she had ever been to Willy's house. She denied it.
Folks lie when it comes to murder.
I wish to tell you why it was denied. To this day, I don't know. None of my lawyer buddies have provided an answer, except one who quipped, "I know! The judge wanted you to lose."
We went to trial.
Sometimes we lawyers need to push the envelope in defending our clients. I had to do so here. Even though the judge denied my motion, I wanted the jury to know we tried to get the mystery blood tested, and there was another suspect in the case.
I put investigator Declan on the stand. I asked, "Did you attempt to get the DNA ..."
I might say here that the judge went "Volcanic." The judge ordered the jury to leave the room immediately.
He "invited" me to approach the bench.
The judge was furious. So was I. Unfortunately, in a courtroom spitting match, the judge always wins.
He was right.
The judge told me if I said another word about the DNA/blood, he would put me in jail.
I started to stammer: "Buh..."
The judge cut me off. "I told you-not-one-word."
"Do you want to finish that sentence and go to jail?"
I prefer to sleep next to my wife.
I moved on.
Some (lying) lawyers would tell you they tried a murder case, and the client was found not guilty. But that's not really the truth. Willie was found not guilty of murder but he was convicted of manslaughter. I wanted him acquitted of everything.
I argued the case as best as I could. The judge sentenced Willie to a relatively light sentence of 18 months in prison. I thought that was the end of things.
Since I tried the case, I thought it would be better for Willy to be represented by another lawyer for appeal purposes. I didn't think I made any mistakes, but it would've been better for Willy if I because another lawyer can argue that a case should be reversed if the previous lawyer made substantial mistakes. I also wanted a new lawyer to raise the issue of the judge's denying my request for DNA testing.
A new lawyer handled Willy's appeal. This lawyer never raised the DNA issue and Willie lost his appeal.
Months and years crept by. Meanwhile, Willy remained free, but he went from 74-year-old Willy to 77-year-old Willy.
One spring day, I got a call from the judge's office. While Willy had lost his appeal, the folks at the jail forgot to tell him to turn himself in. The jail finally realized the mistake, and Willy dutifully turned himself in.
During the three years Willy was out, he got cancer. He was very ill when he turned himself in.
The judge wanted me to get Willy out. His secretary called me. I felt like saying, "I'm not the one who put Willy in; the judge did."
I didn't do this.
Instead, I explained Willy's appellate lawyer was the "official lawyer of record on the case." A few minutes later, my phone rang again. The judge's secretary called to tell me the judge specifically wanted me to do it.
Not to be smug, but when the judge asks you to do something like this, there's a good chance that what the judge asked you to do is going to happen.
I filed the appropriate paperwork. Willie was released, having spent very little time in jail.
I'm not sure if this is a happy ending; Willie was acquitted of murder, he didn't spend years in prison.
I just wish I knew if he committed the crime.