Drug trafficking, murder and rape are three crimes

Introduction

Drug trafficking, murder and rape are three crimes which are very common in modern society (Hatzis, 2002). These crimes are capital offenses in some jurisdictions and they may attract a death sentence. They are viewed a serious crimes since they destabilize the social fabric and cause anarchy in society. Drug trafficking destroys the potential of human beings and increases social delinquents in society. Rape which is common in society destroys the self esteem and potential of men and women in society, and at times it results in contraction of deadly diseases. Murder which is one of the oldest crimes also limits the potential of human beings and is punishable by death in many jurisdictions especially if it is premeditated (Blackstone, 1979). Capital offenses in many judicial systems do not attract bail due to various reasons including the possibility of the defendant fleeing. However, in certain systems, bail is accepted as long as the court is satisfied that the defendant will not flee. This paper will analyze three prominent cases involving drug trafficking, murder and rape in the American society. The facts of the case, legal principles applied and judgment given will also be analyzed. These cases will be used to give the background of the bail system and a personal analysis of offenders who deserved bail and treasons behind the same will be given. This will enable us understand the aims of the bail system in any judicial system.

Murder case analysis: People vs Simpson

Facts

In this case, a famous actor and football star, O. J. Simpson was charged with murder of Goldman Ronald and Nicole Simpson who are his ex-wife’s friend and his ex-wife respectively. This was the most publicized case in the history of America. In June 1994, Goldman and Nicole were found murdered in Brentwood, LA after their throats were slit (Bugliosi, 2002). Simpson and his wife had divorced two years earlier and their two children were sleeping in the house at the time. The evidence collected by the police at the scene led them to O.J. Simpson as a suspect. Simpson was called to turn himself in but he did not and at the time, he sent a media message which sounded to most people as a suicide note. At the time, murder had no bail and it attracted life in prison in most cases. Simpson’s car was later traced ad his friend Cowlings who was driving told police that the football star had a gun to his head. A low speed chase followed which was covered by over 20 helicopters and he went to his Brentwood home. After chatting to his mother for half an hour, he later surrendered. After being charged, he pleaded not guilty and a jury was formed to deliberate on the case. Various witnesses testified and the judge ruled that he would go to trial. However after about nine months of trial, the jury returned a verdict of “not guilty" against O.J. Simpson (Cotterill, 2002).

Legal principle applied

In California, murder is defined as unlawful killing of a fetus or human being with aforethought malice. Aforethought malice involves committing an act which may result in death of the victim. Malice is seen as any act which expressly or impliedly results in intentional killing, is performed with knowledge of dangers to life of humans or whose consequences threaten human life (Quinney, 2002). First degree murder is punishable by twenty five years to life in the state prison of California. If the murder is a hate crime against religion, race, sexual orientation or disability, the offender faces life imprisonment without parole (Harris et. al., 2002). In the People vs Simpson case, the prosecutor charged Simpson with murder of his ex-wife and her friend according to the California state murder laws.

Judgment

The jury delivered a verdict of “not guilty" against O.J. Simpson. This verdict was arrived at after the prosecution did not deliver actual evidence which proved beyond any reasonable doubt that Simpson committed the murder. Most evidence presented was circumstantial and DNA evidence presented was inconclusive. This resulted in his acquittal. However, he was later found guilty in a civil court and fined $33.5 million for the same crime.

Rape case analysis: Territory of Hawaii vs Ben Ahakuelo et. al.

Facts

In this rape case, Massie Thalia a Navy Lieutenant’s wife claimed to have been raped at Ala Mona beach by a group of men. She had attended an event organized by the Navy in a nightclub at Waikiki and an argument with her husband led to a fight in which she slapped an officer and stormed out of the inn. Her husband did not follow her and assumed that she had gone to sleep since she was tired. Subsequently, five men were arrested and charged for the crime. However, after her husband returned home, she claimed to have been raped by some men and he subsequently called the police. Initially she claimed that she did not see the men since it was dark but later said that they were local men and she even gave them a license number to follow up on. Ida Horrace was arrested for the offense but it later emerged that it was nearly impossible for him to have committed the rape since he was involved in an incident in another part of the city at the time. Four other defendants were later arrested and charged with the crime. They were given bail. However, Thomas Massie later kidnapped one of the defendants after coercion from Grace, his wife’s mother, and he was tortured to death by some soldiers who served under him. The state later dismissed the case against the defendants after apparent lack of evidence to sustain a conviction and a new murder case against Thomas Massie was instituted.

Legal principles applied

Under sexual assault laws in Hawaii, a person commits a crime if she or he commits an act of sexual penetration with a person under 14 years of age or through strong compulsion. A sexual offense is committed if the person commits the act on a person below 16 years of age if they are not legally married or is more than five years older than the victim. A sexual offense crime is committed if the victim is physically helpless due to consumption of a substance or if the victim is mentally unstable. In the above case, penetration through a strong compulsion applies as a crime against Massie Thalia.

Judgment

The charges against the defendants were dropped due to insufficient evidence to sustain conviction. This shows that under the circumstances, a verdict of “not guilty’ should have been passed had the case proceeded to conclusion. The inconsistencies in evidence by Thalia and the subsequent actions by his husband shed doubt on the ability of the prosecution to prove the case against the defendants beyond reasonable doubt.

Drug trafficking case analysis: State vs Rick Ross

Facts

Ricky Ross was charged by the LA law enforcers with trafficking in illegal narcotics drugs over several years. They claim he began dealing in cocaine in college where he sold cheaper cocaine thereby attracting many drug users and began his drug trafficking trade (Wilson, 2003). He used street gangs such as Crips and Bloods to distribute the illegal drugs and he had thousands of employees under him. He was one of the largest traffickers in the US and he sold cocaine worth more than $3 million per day. He used sophisticated surveillance equipment and ammunition to protect himself from law enforcers. However, investigations by law enforcers and plea-bargaining by some of the drug cartel members ensured that evidence needed to prosecute Ross was gathered and presented in a court of law (David, 2006). Ross was denied bail due to a high possibility that he would flee. He was later found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment although this was later reduced to twenty years due to good behavior. Many subsequent hip hop artists have emulated his name and lifestyle including rapper “Rick Ross" who named himself after Ricky.

Legal principle applied

In California, possession of cocaine is illegal whether it was intended for personal consumption or sale. Possession of cocaine attracts a fine of $70 or sentencing to a state prison. However, trafficking in cocaine for purposes of sale attracts a stiffer penalty of up to four years in a state prison. The sale of cocaine to minors attracts a penalty of up to nine years in a state prison (Hart, 1972). The prosecutors relied on this law when prosecuting Ricky Ross for trafficking in cocaine.

Judgment

Ricky Ross was sentenced to life in prison for the offence. He was charged for other crimes in addition to drug trafficking and the resultant sentences were life in prison. The prosecutors produced evidence through witnesses who included his former employees and they satisfied the burden of proof. As a result, Ricky Ross was found guilty and sentenced. However, due to good behavior in prison, the sentence was reduced to twenty years.

Bail system

The bail system is a system which was developed to ensure that people charged for offenses appear in front of judges for hearing of their cases when and if required to do so. A cash bail is granted to people who commit certain offenses to ensure that they return to court when required to do so until the conclusion of the case (Boyle, 1990). If an offender does not have cash bail, a surety which is a guarantee by third parties, is given to ensure that they appear in court when required. If an offender does not appear in court, the bail which has been paid is forfeited. Bail is usually given for non-capital offenses and it prevents the imprisonment of accused people before the conclusion of the case (Duker, 1977). Before a judge grants bail, she or he must be satisfied that the defendant will not flee in the circumstances prevailing at the time. This is usually determined by the magnitude of the case, profile of the defendant and punishment under law for the offence. This explains why prominent people are likely to be given bail for offenses committed or why people who commit capital offenses are not given bail. However, different jurisdictions have different laws which guide the enforcement of the bail system (Landes, 1967).

Personal opinion on the application of the bail system in the three cases

Case 1: People vs Simpson

In this case, Simpson was denied bail since the law did not provide for bail for murder at the time. However, when analyzing the bail system in this case, the probability of the defendant presenting himself for trial should form the basis for giving or denying bail. O.J. Simpson was a famous footballer and actor who was widely known. This made it unlikely for him to jump bail since would be relatively easy to trace. However, initially when called upon to surrender, he hesitated and this led to a slow speed chase which lasted for hours. In addition, he presented a media release which sounded to most people like a suicide note and many people, including his psychiatrist, were afraid that he would commit suicide. In light of the above circumstances, I as a judge would not have given him bail due to concern about his personal welfare. The fact that he appeared to most people as suicidal is a major factor which would inform the denial of bail. In police custody, his safety would be guaranteed since committing suicide would almost be impossible. However, if granted bail, he may decide to end his life or disappear completely judging by the hesitation to surrender when first requested to do so.

Case 2: Territory of Hawaii vs Ben Ahakuelo et. al.

In this case, Ahakuelo and the four co-accused, were granted bail since bail was allowed against rape charges at the time. In careful analysis of the circumstances which prevailed in the case, the defendants were accused of rape. The law allowed rape suspects to be released on bail as long as the judge did not view suspects as flight risks. The accused were local people who were well known in the area. The crime committed was also not a capital offense and did not attract a death penalty. There was therefore low probability that the accused people would flee due to these reasons and the judge was reasonable in giving them bail. However, due to the gravity of the crime which is a serious offense, bail set should be quite high in order to ensure that the suspects or their guarantors are heavily punished if the suspects skip bail. Bail set should therefore be approximately $100,000 which is a high figure that allows guarantors of bail to put pressure on suspects accorded bail to make court appearances on time.

Case 3: State vs Rick Ross

In this case, Rick Ross was not granted bail since he was considered a flight risk. Ross faced serious charges which attract life imprisonment and the judge was of the view that he would flee once granted any chance. Bail is only granted when the judge is satisfied that the suspect will show up on time for court appearances. In this case, Ross had been on the run for several years before the police actually caught up with him. He had an elaborate drug network which would easily facilitate his escape especially due to the amount of wealth he possessed. Ross should not be given bail under the circumstances since in addition to be a high flight risk, he is likely to interfere with witnesses. Some of the witnesses who were supposed to testify against Ross were his employees and release on bail would enable him to easily threaten or harm the potential witnesses to ensure there is inadequate evidence to sustain a conviction. The decision not to award bail was therefore accurate under the circumstances.

Summary and conclusion

The bail system is an important component of the judicial system since it allows suspects to enjoy freedom while at the same time ensuring that they report on time for their court appearances. It is a system used when the judge is satisfied that a suspect is not a flight risk (Polinsky, 1980). Discretion is therefore given depending on circumstances such as the magnitude of the case, profile of the defendant and punishment under law for the offence. In the three cases which have been analyzed, the judge was accurate in each case as far as granting bail is involved. O.J. Simpson was not granted bail since in addition to being a flight risk, he appeared to be suicidal. Custody in a law enforcement facility therefore helped preserve his individual welfare. Ricky Ross was also not granted bail since he was a high flight risk. He faced life imprisonment and had an elaborate drug network which would facilitate his escape if granted bail. In addition, he would have been able to threaten or kill witnesses if granted bail since most of them had worked for him. Ben Ahakuelo and his co-accused were granted bail since their crime was not a capital offense which may make them flight risks. In addition, the suspects were well known in the community and could be traced relatively easily if they attempted to escape. However, a high bail should have been charged to these suspects in order to increase pressure for them and their guarantors to make court appearances on time. It is important for judges to make accurate decisions as far as the bail system is concerned. This will ensure that suspects are treated humanely and at the same time justice is achieved through preventing suspects who are flight risks from receiving bail.