A recent case out of Illinois highlights just how sloppy some police work may be. We bring this up because a situation like this could arise in South Florida, including cases of murder in Fort Lauderdale.
Our Fort Lauderdale murder defense lawyers believe that murder in Florida is a different crime than any other. For one, the allegation is that one person took another person’s life, so the crime itself is heavy. But aside from that, a defendant who is convicted can be sent to prison for life, or worse, put to death.
In Florida, there are two ways to be charged with first-degree murder. The first is the state can attempt to prove that the crime was premeditated, meaning it was planned in advance. The alternative is for the state to prove beyond all reasonable doubt that the defendant killed the victim and it was done so while another felony crime, such as a burglary, robbery or sex crime, was being committed. An example would be if a person tried to rob a store and killed a clerk in the process.
In the case of Aleman v. Village of Hanover Park, an Illinois man was charged with murder after a baby died at his house, where he ran a day care.
According to court records, the man had run a day care for five months, but he also had five children of his own, ages 3 to 15. He had several young children in his day care, including an 11-month old. On a September day in 2005, the boy’s mother dropped him off for the third day he had been at the day care. He appeared lethargic and feverish.
Just after arriving, the boy was gasping for air and collapsed. The man performed CPR and other than getting some fluid out of his nose and mouth, was unable to help. The man called 911 and an ambulance arrived and took the child to the hospital.
Police were called in and detectives asked the man and his wife to come to the police station. After being stuck in an interrogation room for 45 minutes, the man asked the officer if he could come back in an hour. The officer said no and told him he was under arrest. Five hours later, officers entered the room and said they wanted to talk with him since they had spoken with others.
The defendant told them he wanted to speak with his lawyer and an officer filled out a waiver of Miranda rights for the man to sign. He then told the defendant he wanted him to sign the waiver, but he could call his lawyer first. The defendant called his lawyer and during the conversation, the officer picked up the phone and spoke to the attorney, who said the defendant would be remaining silent.
The man was permitted to make other calls, asked to leave and was told he couldn’t, then after being told that he couldn’t help himself out unless he talked to police, called his lawyer again and told the attorneys his lawyer “told me to go ahead.” He then spoke with officers for four hours.
The officers told the defendant they had spoken to three doctors who said the man must have shaken the baby to cause the injuries and death. After those apparent lies from police, the defendant admitted to shaking the baby too hard, though he expressed disbelief that he could have caused the child any harm.
The man was charged with aggravated battery of a child, which was amended to first-degree murder days later when the child died from the injuries. The man made bail and in the weeks and months later, the case fell apart. The prosecution found that the officers violated the man’s Miranda rights by questioning him after he had tried to invoke his right to silence. Medical experts found that the boy’s behavior on the date in question could have been caused by blows before that date.
The boy’s mother had a criminal record with violent incidents. She allegedly was known to have beaten the boy and threatened to kill him. The mother was never charged, but charges against the man were dropped about a year later, court records show.
It’s certainly good news the charges were dropped, but the man and his family were put through an awful situation for no good reason than the police did a bad job investigating. An experienced defense lawyer will rarely, if ever, tell a suspect to make a statement to police and will help expose bad facts like these in defending a felony charge.
If you are arrested in Fort Lauderdale or elsewhere in South Florida, contact Leifert & Leifert at 954-523-9600 or 561-988-8000 for a free consultation.
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Boynton Beach Wife Convicted in Murder-For-Hire Plot Gets House Arrest: September 18, 2011