Wednesday, September 16, 2015
In Monday's eleventh episode of the Undisclosed Podcast, we noted how Jay's defense counsel believed that, if he did not plead guilty to accessory after the fact to murder in Baltimore City, his case would have been transferred to Baltimore County, where he would have been charged with murder and faced the death penalty. Given time limitations, I just briefly touched upon why such a transfer would have been possible. In this post, I will flesh out this analysis.
The Sixth Amendment states in relevant part that
“in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law….”
There's a lot to unpack in this language, but one thing is clear: Some crimes are continuing crimes. At the federal level, the jurisdiction over such crimes is covered by 18 U.S.C. Section 3237(a), which states in relevant part that
Except as otherwise expressly provided by enactment of Congress, any offense against the United States begun in one district and completed in another, or committed in more than one district, may be inquired of and prosecuted in any district in which such offense was begun, continued, or completed.
One example based upon this statute that I give to students goes as follows:
Hector Sandoval and others kidnap Frank Rivas in Davenport, Iowa. The evidence established that Rivas was then driven from Davenport, Iowa, across the Mississippi River on a bridge in the Quad Cities, and into the Central District of Illinois, before being taken to Chicago in the Northern District of Illinois. Can the trial be held in the Central District of Illinois? See United States v. Sandoval, 347 F.3d 627 (7th Cir. 2003).
The answer to this question is "yes" because kidnapping is a continuing crime. It begins in the district in which the victim was abducted, continues in any districts through which the victim is taken, and concludes when the victim is taken to the district where she is finally found.
This same type of analysis applies at the state level, and we know that the State's theory of the case was murder based upon kidnapping by fraud. This kidnapping allegedly started at Woodlawn High School in Baltimore County when Adnan Syed got into Hae Min Lee's car based upon a lie. Based upon this theory of the case, Jay (and Adnan) could have been prosecuted in Baltimore County even though Hae was "buried" in Leakin Park in Baltimore City and possibly murdered in Baltimore City as well. As such, Jay's case easily could have been transferred to Baltimore County if he refused to make a deal.