When we see headlines like this it can be hard to understand why the police would drop charges against an accused gunman so soon after making an arrest for murder. How did they change their mind so quickly? To fully understand this kind of decision, one must first understand what exculpatory evidence is and why it is so important in criminal cases. The evidence is exculpatory when it tends to clear a person of guilt. This means that in the case above, the police came across evidence through their investigation that showed that the accused individual may not have committed the murder. Under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963). Law enforcement and Prosecutors have a legal and ethical duty to turn over exculpatory evidence as soon as they become aware of it. This is true even if the defendant didn’t ask for the exculpatory evidence specifically. This duty is sacrosanct to the fairness of our criminal justice system in the United States.
In this case, the information that came to the police led them to drop charges and release the accused individual. This was done “in an abundance of caution” because of the great injustice of holding a person in custody when there is evidence of their innocence. Although the police are not revealing exactly what the exculpatory evidence is, there were eye witnesses and a confidential informant who provided the identification of the shooter. Hypothetically, it is possible that something changed with regard to the witnesses’ account. The police will not reveal these details at this time because the investigation remains open. At this point, law enforcement will keep its energy focused on solving this crime and bringing the killer to justice. This does not mean that the individual released may not face arrest again in the future depending on how the investigation progresses.
If you or someone you know has been wrongfully accused of a crime, don’t hesitate to contact us at The Law Office of Laura E. Kenney, P.A.