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Grand jury declines to issue indictment against murder defendants

Last Thursday, a grand jury in East Baton Rouge decided not to issue an indictment against two men on second-degree murder charges stemming from a January 14 homicide of one of the men's relatives.

Hillar Moore III, District Attorney for East Baton Rouge Parish, had alleged that all three men had been involved in an attempted robbery of another 26-year-old man who himself was purchasing drugs from the three. After being attacked, he apparently shot at his attackers, along with a 16-year-old boy who witnessed the robbery.

According to the District Attorney, the grand jury decided the way it did because of the fact that state law doesn't permit the three survivors of the incident to be charged for the homicide due to the intervention of the teenage boy, who is admitted to be the only one who acted in "proper legal defense of others."

Moore admitted that the surviving men could have been held responsible if any of them had fired the weapon which caused the death. In his own words, "under the facts of this case, a second-degree murder charge was not legally permissible."

As our readers may or may not know, a grand jury is a body of people that considers only evidence brought or approved by the prosecutor. Grand juries do not hear defensive evidence, which makes it somewhat interesting that the case went to grand jury in the first place. Perhaps some of the facts of the case became clearer at grand jury, but it makes one wonder why the District Attorney even took a stab with the grand jury, given that application of state law to the case is straightforward.

Decisions by prosecutors in criminal cases usually involve strategy. Prosecutors are generally not interested in helping out a criminal defendant, and can be expected to do everything within their power to secure a conviction. For this reason, it is critical for criminal defendants to obtain help in building a solid defense.

Source: The Advocate, "Jury returns no murder indictment in shooting," Joe Gyan Jr., May 18, 2012

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