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Home >Online Support Ask The Experts >Judge Robert Ruehlman

Judge Robert Ruehlman (Judge)

How Do You Prove First Degree Murder?

First degree murder (aggravated murder in many states) is a purposeful (intentional) killing done with either prior calculation and design (cold blood) or during the commission of a serious felony (rape, burglary, robbery, etc.)

- Judge Robert Ruehlman
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How could the prosecution change the charge from first degree murder to involuntary manslaughter when the key witness admitted to planning the death in his first statement and then change his story when he learned this would implicate him to the murder?

If this had happened in my jurisdiction, the charge would not have been reduced. The victim, police, and the Judge would have been required to unanimously agree before any plea bargain could have been approved.

I say this, not because I want to make you feel bad, but because this sounds to me like the laws in your state should be changed. It also would be a good time to take your complaints to the press and to start a grass roots campaign to get rid of your prosecuting attorney.

Unfortunately, there is legally nothing that you can do to reinstate more serious charges.

- Judge Robert Ruehlman
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What is the process for obtaining the police docket number or a copy of the police investigation record or status? Are the police obligated by law to provide the victim's family information on the suspects and details for the investigation? We were asked for our drivers licenses and copies of them were made by the detectives. Is this request normal procedure? What are our privacy rights? Should we obtain a lawyer to assist in this process?

In most jurisdictions, the police are not as likely to give any information to the family of the victim until an arrest is made and the case is considered closed. Until that time, everyone is considered a suspect, even family members.

Give the police time to work on the investigation and if several months pass with no arrest, then you could consider hiring an attorney.

- Judge Robert Ruehlman

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My only sibling was murdered by her husband who then killed himself. They have two small children, ages 8 & 5, who were present when their father killed their mother. After a very long court battle between myself/wife and their father's mother/stepfather as to who should get the boys, the judge granted them with guardianship. We have just realized that they lied on the stand. We have asked the prosecutor in this small court if this is a case and he said all we needed to do was file a police report (?) stating they lied and he would do the foot work on prosecuting them. He said there was a 'chance' this could change the guardianship from them to us but wasn't sure. What would be your position on something like this?

Perjury is very difficult to prove and even the most obvious cases (like President Clinton's), prosecutors hesitate to prosecute.

The only way to prosecute this case is to convince the local prosecutor. He seems to suggest that if you file a complaint, he will follow up and prosecute it. However, be aware that since you are initiating the complaint, you could be held liable for false prosecution, if it is subsequently thrown out of court.

-Judge Robert Ruehlman

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My daughter was murdered in Lee Co. Fl. 8-07-99. I am being stonewalled by the Sheriffs Det. in charge of the case. I live in Co. Do I have any legal rights to know how the investigation is proceeding? Should I make a trip to Fl? They had a prime suspect but didn't obtain any DNA from him and now I'm told that they don't know where he is. She had hair and skin under her fingernails. I was told that her evidence would be back to the Sheriff in 3 to 5 weeks but I am told now that it isn't back yet. These are just a few of my frustrations. Please advise me.

Parents and other relatives really do not have many rights during the murder investigation of a loved one. This can be very frustrating for the family of the victim. The reason for the reluctance to share information is that they consider everyone a suspect.

This investigation is not that old and it does take time to complete the DNA analysis. I know it is very difficult for a parent to wait even one day during the course of an investigation, but these cases do take considerable time and effort to solve. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me again.

-Judge Robert Ruehlman

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My son was murdered January 27, 1999. The man who committed the crime confessed and is currently in the county jail awaiting trial. He has been appointed a defense attorney. The case was to go to trial in September 1999 but was continued to November 1999. I have talked to the district attorney who is handling the case; he is seeking first degree murder. Although, second degree murder and voluntary manslaughter are also possibilities. First degree murder in California (when a firearm is involved) is a 50 year to life term; second degree is 40 years to life. A certain percentage of this time must be served before parole is offered. The accused is currently 41 years old. How likely is the scenario of a 1st or 2nd degree murder charge being handed down? I can tell you, briefly, the circumstances of the homicide. The accused had an argument with my son, witnessed by 3 people. Two hours later, the accused came back to where my son worked; the two talked and then the accused killed my son (no witnesses to the actual shooting). The shooting was captured on a security camera. According to the DA, who viewed the video tape, there were no threatening gestures or movements on the part of my son or the accused. If a first or second degree murder charge is handed down, how likely is it that the accused would serve the allotted time? In your opinion, besides gun control, what changes in the current laws would need to be made in order to prevent homicides?

I am not familiar with California law, however, I do know that in most states first and second degree murder convictions carry life terms.

As to preventing murders, use of the death penalty and long prison terms will at the least prevent the persons subject to those penalties from committing another murder.

-Judge Robert Ruehlman

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Could you please tell me what goes on during a motion hearing prior to a trial for aggravated murder? What are the roles of the prosecutors, the defense attorneys, and the judge? We have hired our own attorney. Can he participate in the motion hearing? Thank you for your assistance.

A Motion hearing in a criminal case usually involves determinations on the admissibility of evidence in an upcoming trial. The prosecutor is an advocate for the state and as an advocate will attempt to convince the court that all evidence should be admitted. The defense attorney's job is to convince the court to exclude as much evidence as possible. The Judge makes the final decision as to the admissibility of evidence. The Judge will exclude evidence that was obtained as a result of an illegal search. He will also exclude any evidence that was illegally obtained. The Judge also will exclude hearsay evidence, or any privileged evidence.

As far as private counsel is concerned, he can be of great assistance to the prosecutor in preparing for trial. However, he would not be allowed to actually participate in the trial.

-Judge Robert Ruehlman

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I have a few questions about a trial. On October 22, I witnessed a friend get murdered. He was shot 16 times by one of his friends. Tomorrow I have to testify in the preliminary hearing and I am very scared. There is no question in my mind that he isn't the killer. I am just scared that he may get out. He knows me very well and knows where I live as well. I have been reading a lot about trials and it seems like in a lot of them the murderer is released, either after appeals or at the time of the trial. There are three other witnesses that are testifying for sure, but I know of a lot more people that were there. The other people that were there can't or won't testify either because they are scared or because they are not legal. This murderer has other offenses like for stabbings and things like that. His own brother is testifying against him. Well, my questions are can his brother take back his statement that was given to the police? What if he leaves the country and doesn't actually testify in court? He is from El Salvador and we are afraid that he will go back. Do I have to testify, what if I am afraid for myself and my family that I live with? Can I be let off for not wanting to put myself in danger? I really don't want to testify but I was served with a subpoena and I told the murdered victim's family that I would. I am very scared for myself. My brother was on trial for murder and due to the witnesses was let out after a year on an assault charge and given probation. Can this happen? I realize that being a judge you are really busy but I would really appreciate a response to my questions.

His brother can attempt to recant his previous statement but then the prosecutor would would have the right to cross-examine him about that previous statement. If he leaves the country, the prosecutor could not use his statement and it would be difficult to obtain a subpoena power over him.

Finally, if you are subpoenaed, you must testify.

-Judge Robert Ruehlman

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I was wondering if in California is there a way to get the case files on my mother's murder trial. I have tried to write letters and I get no replies. I have contacted the Victims Witness Advocate and she has had no luck either. Do you have any suggestions? I know the case was pled down.

First, you should ask the court reporter for a transcript of the plea hearing. Then you should request the case file from the police and prosecutor. Most states have a freedom of information act that requires law enforcement agencies to turn over information that is requested by citizens or the press. Since there has been a resolution of the case via plea, there is no reason why these files shouldn't be opened up.

-Judge Robert Ruehlman

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I live in New Jersey and my only daughter was found brutally murdered in Nov,1997. The main suspect, who has not been charged with her murder as of this time, has just pled guilty to two other murders of young women, and is awaiting sentencing. He is a serial killer with an extensive criminal record. His brother helped this suspect dispose of the two other women's bodies and was going to testify for the state against his brother had it gone to trial. Now with the suspect pleading guilty, isn't it possible for the brother to be charged as an accessory, or with some type of crime for his involvement in these crimes? I have been put off by the prosecutor's office time and time again regarding the evidence in my daughter's murder. They tell me it's in the hands of the FBI. How long does it take to compare the evidence, DNA etc...? It's been two years, how much longer can it be? And how can I help in getting the information I need? What rights do I have?

The brother probably won't be tried because he agreed to help the police. The DNA testing can take a few weeks to several months to complete. It depends on the amount, condition, age of the evidence and the facilities available to the jurisdiction. As far as your obtaining information about the case, most police agencies are not willing to open their files while actively investigating a case.

-Judge Robert Ruehlman

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How can a family be promised a conviction of murder one, and then five months later, be taken to the back of the courtroom and told that the state's attorney will plea bargain down to involuntary manslaughter that day because there was no investigation. None. The state's attorney said, "I refuse to publicly indite the city police department". The next year he ran for Judge! I repeatedly asked if I needed an attorney of my own during the 5 months of court procedures. I was told by the state's attorney that "We are your attorney." My son Tim was given no justice. The shooter was given 10 years, which was the maximum for involuntary manslaughter I was told. The murderer spent less than 3 years in jail, even though he was a convicted felon, out on probation. Not following his probation, a warrant was issued for his arrest. No one looked for him and 10 days later he shot my son. At my son's coroner's inquest, I saw the detective's mouth drop open when he was told by the coroner that my son had no drugs in his system, not even pot! Tim was threatened repeatedly for two weeks before he was shot, by a gang member because he came to the aid of a female acquaintance when she was being abused by another gang member. His friend, who was also there, had his car riddled with bullets a week prior to Tim's death. Tim's five brothers and sister, his parents and friends feel cheated. The shooter has already been shot a few months after his release from prison, not killed, but hopefully he saw his life pass before him. This gang member is out to kill again. He was successful before, and he will kill again. Maybe he can use the system to get away with it again! I hope I can keep my loved ones out of harm's way this time.!

Once a person has pled and is convicted, you cannot go back and charge them with a more serious offense. This is because of the double jeopardy clause in the constitution. Jeopardy attaches when a person pleads guilty to a lesser charge.

-Judge Robert Ruehlman

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My best friend was murdered by an 18 yr. male in Montgomery in March. He had broken into her home while she was out and jumped her when she returned. He left her tied by wrists and neck to her bed to die, which she did after 16 hours. I am in a commonwealth state and would like an idea of procedures: criminal, court, and prosecution for Alabama. I would also like to know more about victim impact statements. Do those from friends, family and coworkers count, are they included in the proceedings? Thank you for your help.

I am not familiar with Alabama law, however, most states have similar laws when dealing with criminal prosecutions. From the allegations, it sounds like the defendant would be subject to Alabama's death penalty.

Most states have victim impact statements and they are used during sentencing but some states like Ohio prohibit their use in death penalty cases.

-Judge Robert Ruehlman

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I recently wrote a letter to a judge who will be residing over the murder case against the man who shot my 18 year old cousin in the back Halloween evening this year. In my letter, I pleaded that the accused get due punishment for the crime that he committed. The judge did respond, informing me that he stopped reading my letter in the very beginning because of legalities. He did forward my letter to the prosecuting attorney. The family had an idea to generate a flood of letters to the prosecuting attorney similar to my letter in hopes to "make a difference" if you will. Is this a good idea? Do you have any suggestions as to what we may do (and not be burdensome) to insure justice? Thank you for your time.

A judge cannot have any contact with victims prior to conviction. However, once the defendant pleads guilty or is found guilty by a jury, the judge can have contact with victims through a victim impact statement or in open court.

As for letters to the prosecuting attorney, this is fine. In fact, it causes the prosecutor to take notice and to put the case on the front burner rather than the back burner.

-Judge Robert Ruehlman

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My daughter was last seen June 14, 1999. There is an ongoing criminal investigation but She is still classified as a missing person because there is no body. We live in Missouri. They have information from a major defendant that he can lead the police to the body if he is granted immunity. Also the sheriff is related indirectly to one of the main defendants. The sheriff's sister is married to the defendants brother. When we learned this, we requested the sheriff's department step down and turn the investigation over to an outside agency. He has refused. We have submitted information about this case to the Attorney General, the Governor and the head of the Highway Patrol. I would like an ethical review of the sheriff question. I would also like to know how to approach getting a change from "missing person" to murdered person.

This is one of those cases where the power of the press could turn things around. If I were you, I would go to the local newspaper and television stations. You will be surprised how things will change when the press starts getting involved.

In a case last year, I gave the same advice and the story ended up on National TV. Last month, murder charges were brought against a long time suspect. Good luck.

-Judge Robert Ruehlman

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I am trying to find out about where the federal habeas corpus appeal of a prisoner on Texas's death row will be filed: whom can I ask to find out in what district/division will this particular case be? The crime occurred in Houston, Texas. I have the case number from the trial there. It is very kind of you to take the time to help bereaved people like me.

If the crime occurred in Houston, then the Habeas Corpus would be filed in the Federal District Court located in that city.

If you called the Prosecutor's office in Harris County, they could also tell you where it was filed.

-Judge Robert Ruehlman

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I need information about going for the death penalty using only circumstantial evidence or life without parole. I would like very much for this devil to die, but I do not want the chance that he may get off for the murder of my daughter. I would also like to know how many cases in the state of GA the courts have overturned in the cases of the death penalty. I am so afraid I do not know what to do. I do not know where to turn to, because I live in NC and my daughter was murdered in GA. There were two devils, a white female and white male, robbing her home. The only thing we know that she must have blocked them with her car from leaving. (only one way out) and they murdered her. She has been tried and sentenced to life plus 20 years, but of course she can be paroled. We still do not know who murdered my beloved daughter. Tell me what you can or where to go for help. It seems that the criminal has all the rights. Thank you.

I am not familiar with Georgia death penalty laws other than the fact that they are a very conservative state.

As far as going for the death penalty when you only have circumstantial evidence, it is very difficult because jurors will only bring back a recommendation of death if they are positive that the defendant committed the murder. Often, you have a better chance of obtaining a conviction on a circumstantial case if you just go for life in prison.

Concerning where to go for help, you must continue to hound the local police and prosecutors who are handling the case. If they aren't doing their jobs, go to the press.

-Judge Robert Ruehlman

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My family and I are trying very hard to deal with the death of a eight month old baby boy in our family, he was murdered by his mother's boyfriend, (he was not the biological father). We have found out that his hearing is coming up soon and that since he had know prior criminal record that the court will most likely set a bond and he will be set free until his trial which could be in up to fourteen months. I guess my question is: How can the justice system arrest a man for first degree murder and then set him free for a year to a year and half until his trial? Why do they do that? My family and I are desperate for some direction here! Is there anything we can do to stop the court from setting this murderer a bond?. Thanks so much for this time.

About the only thing you can do is to show up in force at the bond hearing. This has an impact on most judges. Also, contact the prosecutor's office and let your feelings be known. Usually when victims complain, the prosecutor and his staff take a greater interest in the case.

-Judge Robert Ruehlman

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If a Prosecutor declines to file criminal charges against someone even though there is proof they committed a crime is there any alternatives to seeing that justice is served? My son was hit and killed while in the process of crossing the street. The man who hit and killed my son was an on-duty police officer. The officer was drug tested immediately after the accident and tested positive for several prescription drugs (three different kinds of muscle relaxants and one type of pain medication), all of which clearly state, "Do not operate a motor vehicle or heavy machinery." There is documentation that states the level of one of these drugs is higher than the recommended dosage. The document goes on to state that his level of this one drug is within the average level of other people who have been charged with DWI. He admitted that he saw my son riding his bike on the side of the road, while he was in the process of passing a vehicle in a residential area, school crosswalk intersection and a no passing zone. There is also proof that he didn't use any caution, in fact he accelerated. When he was asked if it were someone else that did what he did, would he consider it to be a reckless act. He wouldn't answer the question. In my opinion this case has automobile homicide written all over it, but our prosecutor says he was capable of operating a vehicle while on those drugs and his actions were not negligent. Other than filing a civil lawsuit which has already been done, is there anything we can do to see that criminal charges are filed as well?

If the prosecutor won't handle the case, about the only thing left to do is to go to the local press and media. This can often dislodge a prosecutor because in most states the prosecutor is an elected office.

-Judge Robert Ruehlman

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I am a graduate student studying to be a school psychologist. I am very concerned about the number of children shooting children recently. I have been posed with a question about the most recent shooting in Michigan. The question is whether or not I believe a child of six years of age can form or have the intent to kill. What I believe is that a child this young can form the intent to kill, but I do not believe that a child of this age truly knows what death is or how final it is. In today's society children see death and killing everywhere but I do not believe that they really understand what they are doing and the ramifications of it. I do however believe that there intent is to shoot someone. My opinion is an inexperienced one and I was wondering if you could give me your opinion on this. If you could take the time to do this I would really appreciate it. The POMC website is a great resource and looks to be a great source of support that I will recommend to others. Thank you.

Most states have an age limit on criminal culpability. Usually children under eight years of age are considered unable to form a criminal intent and thus they cannot be prosecuted. In the case of the boy in Michigan, the law of that state precludes any charges being filed against him.

-Judge Robert Ruehlman

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Is it proper for the police dept. to try to talk character witnesses in a juvenile murder case out of testifying on behalf of that defendant?

It really depends on the type of case being tried. In a major criminal prosecution, it is not uncommon for police officers to question defense witnesses. However, it would be improper for them to intimidate or threaten a defense witness.

-Judge Robert Ruehlman

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My 22 month old granddaughter was murdered on November 15, 1999. The autopsy revealed that her neck had been broken in 6 places, but the cause of death was smothering. The police say that my daughter's ex-boyfriend is the one that did it, but they can't arrest him for lack of evidence. They say that they are still investigating and there will be an arrest. Is there anything that can be done? Can he be forced to take a lie detector test? How long do these type of investigations take?

The police cannot force anyone to take a lie detector test or to make a statement. At this point, the police are waiting for the suspect to make a mistake. Hopefully, he will confide in someone and that person will go to the police. Any admissions one makes to a private citizen can be used in court against the perpetrator.

-Judge Robert Ruehlman

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If local police cannot/refuse to satisfy questions surrounding a fatal accident, is there an alternative authority that one can turn to? Is there a statute of limitations for filing a criminal suit?

If the local police are not giving you any answers, you should consider hiring a lawyer.

As for the statute of limitations, every state has a time limit for bringing charges. Usually the more serious crimes have a longer period in which to bring charges. In all states, murder has no statute of limitations.

-Judge Robert Ruehlman

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A family member was murdered over two years ago. The case has been before the grand jury and the suspect indicted. There has been no trial yet. The family is being told that the court is "back logged" and they do not know when this case will go to trial. To further complicate the situation, both the prosecuting attorney and the defendant's attorney are running for public office and have taken a leave until after the elections. It seems as though nothing is being done, the family cannot get any information, and there are children in foster care as a result of all this mess and delay. Is there any way to push this through the system? Is there anyone or anything we can do?

This sounds like a case where no one is doing their job. However, since the prosecutor is running for office, this would be a perfect time to call the press. When they get involved, you will see movement in the case.

-Judge Robert Ruehlman

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My son's killer just went before the Supreme Court with an appeal which was turned down. Can he appeal again or is this the end of it? Should we have been notified that this was taking place? If so, who was to notify us? When he comes up for parole will we be notified? We are from Kansas. He was found guilty of first degree murder and sentenced to 25 years to life. When would he even come up for parole? Thank you for your time.

If this was the Supreme Court of Kansas, then he could begin a new appeal process through the Federal Courts. This is known as federal habeas corpus, where defendants sue the state in which they were sentenced by filing in federal court. These suits are usually frivolous and involve issues like the incompetence of trial counsel or alleged jury misconduct. Although most sentences are upheld, this is the process that delays death penalty cases.

As to the issue of notification of victims, each state is different. In some states, victims are notified of parole hearings and release dates. You should check with your local prosecutor's office to find out what your rights are.

The whole appeal process is frustrating for victims, but basically all defendants facing death or life in prison will continue to file appeals in state and federal court, even though these courts have already ruled on their cases.

-Judge Robert Ruehlman

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I am the grandmother of two children, Jonathan and Destini. My daughter Nina was their mother. On March 9,1998 Nina was brutally murdered by Destini's father, Martin Peterson because she was leaving him due to the abuse she and Destini had suffered from at his hands. We had just moved from GA to AR five weeks earlier when I received the devastating news about her death. Within 24 hrs we were back in GA. We were informed by the authorities that Destini was in DFACS custody and was placed in a foster home. After we made the funeral arrangements, we went to the DFACS office to obtain custody of Destini. We felt that we shouldn't have any problems because we were her maternal grandparents and we were raising her brother. We are also the only legal relatives she has, due to the fact that Martin never legitimated her. When we asked DFACS if we could take Destini home with us and her brother, we were told that it was not possible. Because of us living in AR we would have to have AR DFACS do a home study on us, which may take anywhere from three to six months. We asked, even though we are her only legal and maternal grandparents and we feel that it is most important that Jonathan and Destini and the rest of the family to be together they still refused. We were heart broken. We not only lost our daughter, but it felt as if we lost our granddaughter as well. We went back to AR empty handed and empty hearted. We knew that in order to gain custody of Destini and reunite her with Jonathan we would have to relocate back to GA. That is what we done. I returned in May and the rest of the family was to follow after school let out in June. Upon arriving I was informed that DFACS and the courts had placed Destini in custody of the murderer's brother, Kenny and sister-in-law, Donna. I was shocked to learn of this. I began calling the Peterson's asking them if I could see her. They refused saying that they had custody of her and would say who can and can't see her and your not one of those people we want her to see. I was devastated. I called often and kept getting the same reply. I didn't know what to do. I still trying to deal with Nina's death. When my family arrived, my husband, Dennis started calling to try and see her. Kenny told us that the adoption of Destini would be finale in Aug. and that they felt that it was in Destini's best interest that she not know us. We asked, doesn't Destini have the right to know her brother Jonathan? They said she already has a brother, Cody. We have been to numerous court hearings concerning custody of Destini. The last hearing was the adoption hearing. We presented numerous witnesses, one being a expert witness, who is a L.M.F.T which testified that it is in the best interest of both children to raised together. She stated it is important for siblings be raised together, especially in this case, because of the trauma these children have already suffered from and that because I don't work I could and would be there for both children and my family. We had overwhelming evidence to support our case. The Peterson's had two witnesses. Donna and a social worker. When the social worker was asked if she had ever observed Destini with us, her answer was no. We had on numerous occasions asked for someone from DFACS to come to our home to observe Destini with us. We were always turned down saying that it wasn't necessary. How could the social worker make a educated, non-bias recommendation to the court "in the best interest of the child" being placed with the Petersons? Donna testified that since Destini was placed with them she had been in four different daycare's because she was having a difficult time adjusting and that within two weeks after being placed with them they placed her in daycare. Donna testified that she didn't need to work but that she did because she enjoyed cutting hair. We felt confident that we would be awarded the privilege to adopt Destini and raise her with her brother. You cannot imagine the shock and devastation we felt when the juvenile judge sent us a letter stating, she felt that it was "in the best interest of the child" for the adoption to be granted to the Peterson's. How is it possible that with all our testimonies and evidence that the juvenile judge granted the adoption to the Peterson's? All our home studies proved and stated that they would not have a problem should Dennis and I be granted the adoption of Destini. The previous courts found that both parties are fit and proper parents to raise the minor child. If that is the case why don't we have her? If the Peterson's aren't Destini's legal and aunt and uncle why don't we have Destini? What about Jonathan and Destini having the right to be raised as brother and sister? When they get older will one or both of them retaliate against the society and the system that failed them? I hope you can help us. We only want what is fair and just. How are we to raise Jonathan and our other children to respect the judicial system when we have been through what we have? Thank you for your time in this matter.

This is a very frustrating set of facts that you sent to me. It is hard enough to lose a daughter, but then to lose a grandchild through the court system must be unbearable. I wish there was something I could suggest.

The problem is that in Juvenile or Domestic Relations Court, the Judge makes the final decision. The decision is based on the evidence presented and how the Judge views that evidence. You could present the same case to two different Judges and get two completely different decisions because every Judge has his or her own set of values and opinions. Moreover, an Appeals Court will very seldom overrule a trial Judges' opinion in a case such as this because appellate Judges are very hesitant to reverse on factual issues.

-Judge Robert Ruehlman

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My sister-in-law, Penny was murdered on Mother's Day, 1999, by a 15-year- old boy. He plead guilty and received the maximum sentence of 9 years to life and could even be eligible for parole prior to the nine years. This boy raped my sister-in-law and then choked her with her dog's leash. This sentence does not seem adequate. I worry about the safety of others if this sexual predator is ever allowed in society again. Penny's death has inspired a juvenile justice reform bill which has passed the New York State Senate and awaits action by the Assembly. It appears that Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has previously opposed juvenile justice reform measures. The bill that has been introduced would expand juvenile offender crimes so that persons, 13, 14, & 15 years of age committing severe sex crimes will face stiffer sentences and be required to register with the Megan's law sex offender registry, eliminate the sentencing distinction between juveniles and adults convicted of second-degree murder and increase the minimum sentence to not less than 15 years. I am looking for any help we can get influencing the Assembly members to pass this much needed bill. We have our local Assemblywoman, Cathy Young, helping us and I am contacting anyone I know of that may have input as to a good route to take. Thank you for any advice you may have for us or perhaps any contact names that may be influential in our fight for justice.

This would be a great issue for the press, especially during election years. The papers and electronic media are always looking for cases like this. In Ohio, he would have been tried as an adult and given life.

-Judge Robert Ruehlman

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Hello, and thank you for your time in helping victims like myself. I am wondering how I would go about getting a transcript (or something of the sort) of a juvenile trial. At the time of the trial my father did not want me to attend because he did not want me to have to go through what he was going through, or the pain it brought to him. Being 22 years of age I decided to respect his wishes and only attended the preliminary hearing,and several dates for sentencing. My father was the only one to attend from my family. He will not discuss the details of the trial with myself or really anyone. There were several different stories (three boys - five stories) of what had happened to cause the gun to go off and my sister to die. One out of three boys was convicted. I have so many questions to ask and am not able to go to the source. I know the five different stories, and bits and pieces of witness testimony, unfortunately, I do not have a complete picture. If you can give me any sort of guidance I would so very much appreciate it.

It really depends on the law of the state where you reside, as well as the rules of your local juvenile court.

Juvenile courts, because of their very nature, can prevent the general public, as well as family members of a victim, from receiving information about juvenile proceedings.

The reasoning behind this is to protect the identity of the juvenile defendant in the hopes that this will aid in their rehabilitation. I do not subscribe to this belief. I am merely giving you an explanation to find out what your rights are. You should contact the juvenile court in your area. Good luck.

-Judge Robert Ruehlman

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The verdict of the murder case came in today. We have been told that we can make impact statements to the judge before he does the sentencing. I was wondering what is the best kind of statement to make to have the greatest impact and get the most out of the sentence. The murderer was convicted on one count of first degree murder with mercy, one count of voluntary manslaughter, and one count of carrying a concealed weapon without a permit. I would like a judge's opinion on what statements from the family make the greatest impact when considering sentencing issues. Thank you for your time on this matter.

Judges are very interested in how a victim's death affected the victim's family and friends. Judges want to know how the survivors lives were changed by the murder.

-Judge Robert Ruehlman

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I need to know if someone can put pictures of my deceased daughter on the internet without my permission? this person has done this in several places claiming to be her father. He is in no way her father, police believe him to be a pedophile. But they don't have the proof yet. He has described her death to the world as well. I believe he is linked to teenager sites because most of the people in the guestbook are teenage girls. If he is responding I believe he is a predator. He is using my daughter to attract other young girls. I need to know what I can legally do to stop this once and for all. He had similar sites on before the man that killed her was arrested. The police made him remove them. He put them back on without my knowledge. Is there anything I can do?

The Internet is very unregulated. The Government and the courts have taken a hands-off policy. In some states, however, relatives of deceased persons can bring suit against anyone who without permission misuses that person's identity. You might want to check with a lawyer.

-Judge Robert Ruehlman

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My stepson was murdered more than two years ago on 16 April 1998 in Florida, along with his friend and a third friend who survived 17 stab wounds. A total of seven people out of the nine that were there were charged. Four have plead guilty to a variety of charges, and three, all brothers, are to be tried for murder. The prosecution has asked for the death penalty. The first hearings were held in the fall of 1998. There have been several trial dates come and go, and many hearings, the most recent on 6 October 2000. We thought that they might set a trial date at this hearing, but once again, little was accomplished. The hearings have been only every few months, sometimes a month apart, with whole summers being taken off. At the last hearing, the judge complained of being tired from long hours the week before and judge duty on the weekend. He repeatedly asked the clerk to read back testimony. The three defense attorneys bickered with each other, and were obviously once again not prepared for the hearing (they are all appointed) The judge again deferred ruling on most of the motions. More motions were introduced, even though the judge has stated several times in the past that he would accept no more motions after a certain date. My wife is beside herself with frustration. Is there anything that we can do to speed this up? I worry about angering the judge. The young men murdered were from Maryland, not from Florida. Those charged with murder, 17-27 years old at the time, obviously came from a very broken home, have had to lead a hard life, and were and are looked down upon my 'regular' society. In short, there seems to be no incentive for anyone to really try this case. Everyone just keeps delaying. The prosecution claims to be always ready to go, but can't seem to be able to do anything to get to trial. I read about a case recently out west where a man convicted of murder was let free because it took five years to bring him to trial. Again, how can we get the judge to move? Thank you.

You cold go to the press with this story. It does seem like a long time to bring a case to trial. This could anger the judge, but what is he going to do, throw the case out? It's not very likely. What will probably happen is the case will be set down on a much faster track. Good luck.

-Judge Robert Ruehlman

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My son was murdered in Memphis, TN on June 22, 2000. The Prosecuting Attorney is asking for voluntary manslaughter based on the perpetrator's statement that it was an accident while hitting my son over the head with the gun. After sending all my information to the second opinion services Dr. Bonnell says this is a lie. It could not have happened that way. A preliminary hearing was scheduled for August 31, however, after arriving to court that day we were advised that the hearing had been waived and the case was being sent to the grand jury for an indictment. My question is that once the grand jury sends down the indictment is it to late to go back for a murder charge. We have been running into a brick wall every time we try to get someone to talk to us or meet with us they just keep putting us off. We don't want to run out of time. I would also like to know why no charges were filed against the man that was with the murderer.

A prosecutor can always go back to the grand jury for a more serious charge. Jeopardy does not attach until a person is convicted. I totally agree with Harry Bonnell. He is a wonderful medical examiner and his advice to go to the elected prosecutor with a news person is great. Do not delay!

As for why the accomplice was not charged, I don't know why. I would need more information. It could be that there is not enough evidence.

-Judge Robert Ruehlman

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Could you tell me the procedure for having an elected judge removed from the bench? Does it differ by state? Is it based on a portion of the voting population in a county? There is a judge in Columbus, Ohio who granted supershock parole to two killers who tortured and killed a 3 year old child. She explained (in her order releasing both killers) that she believes this murder was "an isolated aberrant act that will not be replayed", adding that the killers "completed their GEDs and 3 anger management sessions". In addition, she released the woman so she could "take care of her own children". I find this truly bizarre. She sentenced each killer to 7-25 years in jail, but their combined sentence was less than 7 years.

The only way to remove a judge who lawfully is doing his or her job is through the ballot box. What this judge did was perfectly legal, and therefore, although one might disagree with her decision, she cannot be removed from office.

-Judge Robert Ruehlman

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I live in the state of Missouri and wanted to know exactly how can someone get 1st degree murder and only get 15 years. My 18 year old daughter was shot in the head with a 12 guage shotgun at close range. In the process 2 of the other people with her was shot at. One received fragments in the face, the other in the hand. One girl was not hurt at all. The murderer(s) have not been caught as of yet. This happened 3-26-00. As far as I am concern, because I have to think positive that when they are caught, it should be 1st degree murder with aggreviated circumstances. Which of course to a Mother he should get the DEATH PENALTY. I understand that some people don't believe in the death penalty and I respect that. So you would understand a little more about it. The perpertrator brought the gun to the scene and waited for them to come out of the house and get in the car. I guess my question to you is that... Does it depend on the state you live in that would determine the time one get or is it the Judge's call? How can you (in general) give someone a 10 year sentence when they have taken a life. Are our children lives only worth 10 years and get out or go before the parole board in 2 years? I know time is given according to the type of charges that one is accused of...I am referring to like 1st degree, 2nd degree...there is a difference in the time that you get for those two charges. I undestand about plea bargaining and I realize that there is a lot of variables that go into each case. I went to school for court reporting and was able to sit in on a lot of different cases. That was years ago. So, I am no expert, not really even knowledgeable of it. I am just going on what I have heard and seen. This is very new to me. I sincerely hope that I am not confusing you in my questions, I am not able to really express myself these days. But I guess my other questions are: Who is responsible for setting what charge the perpertrator should be charged for? If it is the prosecutor, does it depend on that State's law? If one gets 1st degree can they also ask for capital punishment and if not what would be the circumstances that one gets capital punishment? I know that different states have tougher laws than others, so can a law be changed as to where there is a stiffer punishment for the crime like 1st and 2nd degree....like life without parole or life without parole for 50 years. I guess I am saying that right? When my daughters murderer(s) are caught, can I talk to the DA and let them know what charge I feel they need to charge them with. Or does a parent not have a say about her child after death? As a judge I know that one of your responsibilities is to make sure you enforce the law, but can you please shed some light on my questions? I do have some more, just don't know how to phrase them toyou at this point without confusing you any more than I probably have.

The laws of every state vary, however, every state's death penalty laws are pretty similar because they have to follow the standards set down by the Supreme Court of the United States.

For someone to be eligible to receive the death penalty, they must first commit an aggravated murder which is a purposeful murder either committed with prior calculation and design or committed during the course of another serious crime like aggravated robbery or rape. Secondly, they must also be guilty of committing an aggravating circumstance. An aggravating circumstance is an additional aspect of the aggravated murder that elevates the case to capital status. It would include situations where the victim was a police officer or the victim was a child under thirteen years of age. It would also include situations where the perpetrator committed the aggravated murder and was either the principal offender (fired the gun) or committed the crime with prior calculation and design (even though they were only an accomplice, they agreed prior to the crime that the victim would be killed).

As you can see, only very serious homicides are eligible for the death penalty.

If the perpertrators are ever found, you should meet with the prosecuting attorney. In most states, they are elected and would be more than happy to meet with you.

If a person is convicted of aggravated murder with specifications, then there is a second trial where a jury can recommend death. If they do, most judges follow the recommendation although they are not required to.

-Judge Robert Ruehlman

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How can an officer of the court lie to the mother? On January 6, 2001, Monroe Welborne was sentenced to what I thought was 15 years in prison but I came to find out the judge suspended 3 years - 12 years for murdering my son Jerry Michael Craig. My son was killed September 4, 2000 and they let him stay out of jail on a thing I have never heard of. There are two others who were in on it, and they have been in jail since October 6, 2000. The detective told me that they had enough evidence to charge all three with capital murder. I don't understand the justice system. We never even got to make an impact statement. He never even said he was sorry. If you can help me in any way, please do.

In my state of Ohio, the police, prosecutor, and court must inform the victims of all states in the court proceedings. It is unfortunate that your state doesn't have these laws.

Furthermore, once a judge has sentenced an offender, nothing can be done, because the double jeopardy clause has already attached.

-Judge Robert Ruehlman

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Two years ago, my cousin was murdered. I believe that his mother is a member of this group. I have a question and can't seem to find the answer I'm looking for in any of the court web sites I've been to. I was hoping someone would have the answer. It is in regard to the Open Access law. I was not able to attend the trial of the guys who killed my cousin. Are trial transcripts available to family members? Are they made public record? What about police reports, or crime photos? (not that I'd necessarily want to see them, but I guess I'm curious mostly about the trial transcripts) Does anyone know the answers?

As long as the trial is over and either someone was convicted or acquitted of the murder, most states have public access laws that allow the public to obtain information on any concluded case.

This means that you could look at the police and prosecutor's file.

-Judge Robert Ruehlman

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I am writing this letter because of the frustration I am feeling that the state attorney in Springfield, Illinois has not indicted my son-in-law for the murder of my daughter and another man who was in the house at the time. ( a limo driver my son-in-law set up to be there at the time) The story is very long and involved of course, but what I don't understand is that all the evidence has come in from experts in Oklahoma, Connecticut, and New York. From what my family has been told, the murder could not have happened the way my son-in-law portrayed. Every time we talk to one of the detectives or the state attorney they tell us things are going along fine and that they are sending out something else for opinion. This has been going on over a year. I do not want to do anything that would hurt their case, but it is tearing my family apart. My daughter's father wants to bring in the media, I on the other hand don't want that attention. Is there anything we can do to help this come to some conclusion? I would be very grateful for any advice.

To be honest with you, going to the press is the only alternative a family has if the police and prosecutor are dragging their feet.

Remember that most prosecutors are elected by the people and if you raise a big enough stink, they are very likely to move the investigation along.

-Judge Robert Ruehlman

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My sister was raped and murdered in September 1989 in Columbus, Ohio. Her perp got 30 years to life and recently we received notice that he is going to be coming to court to be classified for a sexual predator. What does this mean and what can we do as her survivors and family? Do we have a voice in court to talk to the judge? What levels of classification are there? What will this mean when and IF he gets out.

A sexual predator hearing involved a review by the trial judge of all the transcripts and evidence in the case. The Judge then determines if there is clear and convincing evidence that the offender is likely to commit a sexually violent offense in the future. If the Judge so finds, then the offender will be classified as a sexual predator, which means that after release, he would be required for life to report his residence to the local police. Failure to register is a felony.

In your case, it is very likely that the defendant will be classified a sexual predator. The only other classification would be a sexually oriented offender which would require the defendant to report his residence to the sheriff's department for ten years as opposed to life.

Hopefully, this will be a moot point, because there is no way this animal should ever be allowed to leave prison prior to assuming room temperature.

-Judge Robert Ruehlman

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My son and his friend were both killed in an auto accident on April 13, 2000. The FHP is investigating the case because the party that caused the accident left the scene. My husband has done more investigating than the FHP, or at least it seems. We live in a small town and I'm afraid this case is being swept under the rug. My husband has contacted the FBI, the FDLE, the Sheriff's Department, and the city Police Department. It's very frustrating that we can't seem to get any help. Could you please give us an idea of where to go for help?

If someone leaves the scene of an accident, it is very difficult to prosecute the case, even if someone had been able to write down a license plate number.

If the police were then able to track down the car that was involved (based upon this license plate number), they still would have to place the perpetrator behind the wheel of the car and that can be very difficult. Remember that eyewitness testimony can be attacked by a good attorney.

You might consider hiring an attorney and a private investigator to pursue this case.

-Judge Robert Ruehlman

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My son was stabbed to death in April, 1999. The first defendeant went to trial in August, 2000. He was sentenced to 99 years. There was a second defendant that was orginally charged with aggrivated assualt causing bodily harm. He was arrested within days of my son's murder and the second defendant was arrested about a week later. My daugther-in-law and son were arguing along side a country road and the two defendants stopped and my daughter-in-law got in the car. My son was trying to get her out and the first defendant took a screwdriver out of the car and put it to his neck. A fight started and the defendant admitted that he "hit" my son with the screw driver. The second defendant also was involved. He admitted to kicking my son with the steel toed shoes that he was wearing, but did not admit to stabbing him. In the first trail the defendant did not put any of the blame on the other party. The defendant was a gang member and admitted to it. My daughter-in-law stayed in the car. They left the scene and went to a drive in grocery and were filmed on their camera. You can see the first defedant outside the door beside the car. He has on a blood stained shirt. The second defendant and my duaghter-in- law went into the store and you can hear her laughing. I have always felt that my daughter-in-law was involved in my son's murder but there is not evidence. She is a drug addict and has been in jail for other offenses. I feel that possibly she set my son up. It is a long story. We have been waiting on the second trial. Now, it sems there are going to plea bargain. While in jail the second defendant waited for his room mate to go to sleep then he attacked him by kicking in the head/face with his shoes. The man had to have extensive plastic surgery. Our DA is working with the other DA where the attack in jail occurred. Our DA has a large capital murder case that he is working on and told me that we need to close this case. I do not agree with the plea bargaining and think we should go to trial. The DA has always told us we would have to agree, but now that is not the case. We live in a small town and have had several murders and the DA does not have the time or budget to properly handle this case. I am very disappointed because I feel justice will not be served. Is there anything that I can do? DA says there is no evidence and we would lose the case if we go to trial. I feel he should be tried as a Party to a Crime. The pre-trial motion/plea bargaining will be within the next several weeks so I hope you answer this as soon as possible.

If you disagree with the plea bargain, then call, write and tell in person, the Prosecutor. If the Prosecutor assigned to the case doesn't satisfy you, then go to his boss, the Elected Prosecutor, and complain.

If that doesn't work, then go to the press. Prosecutors are elected officials and the usually respond favorably when they are criticized by the press.

-Judge Robert Ruehlman

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I was wondering how and why they change court dates?

There are a number of reasons why dates are changed. In most cases, it is because the defense needs more time to prepare. A court usually grants the continuance, because if it is denied, the defense can use this as a basis of appeal. The appeals courts will reverse a judge for not granting a continuance if the judge fails to give strong reasons for not granting the continuance.

Failure to complete all of the lab tests or DNA anaylsis is another common reason for a delay.

-Judge Robert Ruehlman

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My son was shot and killed November 2000. He was shot by a 15 year old boy and I believe there are enough facts to show he has potential to kill again. Our local DA's office said more than likely nothing will happen to this boy. This seems so unfair! This all seems to lie in our local DA's hands (who I believe might know the family of the shooter). He will not be tried as an adult and may never even have to be on any type of trial. He more than likely will just go free! It all seems so wrong and I have no rights to justice on my son's rights. Please help me.

In my jurisdiction he would be tried as an adult.

My advice to people who believe that a public official isn't doing his job is to go to the local press and news media.

This story would be considered a big one in my city.

-Judge Robert Ruehlman

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Why was I not allowed to confront the murderer of my son? Whether it be in court or in private? All I got to do was talk to the judge but the DA said it did not matter what I said to the judge because the person was going to get the usual sentence anyway. Also, one thing. Why would the judge tell the person he had to pay $1.00 for the charge of "abuse of corpse?" My son is worth more than that. My son was missing a week before he was found just down the road from the murderer. That really hurt me to hear that from the judge.

Every state has different laws dealing with victim's rights. In my state, victims can confront the defendant in court and they have a right to a victim impact statement. I'm not familiar with the state that you are from, so I'm not sure if what the judge did was correct.

One thing you can do, so that this does not happen again, is to work with your state representatives to get a bill passed in your legislature that would require in court recognition of victims and their families.

-Judge Robert Ruehlman

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There is a trial coming up for the murder of my cousin's wife which is across the country. I want to be there for support but cannot afford to stay the length of the trial. Is there a certain time during the trial where he would need more support? I know that he is the first one to be called to the stand.

Trials can last weeks or be over in a couple of days. It just depends on the case.

Since your cousin will testify first, it would be a good idea to be there at the beginning of the trial.

-Judge Robert Ruehlman

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We, the family (parents, wife, brother, and daughter) of the murder victim feel that the family is being unfairly treated by those prosecuting the case. The Defendant has confessed, even led police to where he had partially buried our son, after stabbing him 11 times, sodomizing, dumping & beating him with one of the golf clubs my son had in the trunk of his car. This all happened last Labor Day weekend when our son sleepily answered the door at 3 AM. The defendant was found to be sane at the time of the murder, and fit to stand trial in testing done last Oct.-Nov. After agreeing to a plea bargain and right before a sentencing the beginning of April, he suddenly again began "hearing voices"--even though he had told the psychologist last fall that he was making that up because his cell-mate told him it would help him get off. After two more months of testing, we were today told that he is not fit to stand trial. We are confused, as the same psychologist tested him this time as last fall. We told the Prosecutor that we would like to have him tested by a representative of the Prosecutor and the victim's family. We were at first told that we couldn't request that because it would be too expensive!! When we think of all the money that has been spent on him, we were appalled at that answer!! It was later explained to us as "hopefully if we get started on the mental treatment right away, he will be fit to stand trial later." When the Prosecutor heard that my husband and I intended to travel 2500 miles to meet with them to discuss this, suddenly we were told this afternoon that Prosecutors ARE going to request a Psychiatrist (not a Psychologist) to test him. My daughter-in-law lives there and has been present at every court appearance. The last two dates, the Victim's rights advocate has not shown up nor contacted her. She has also been so rude when she is called (only once a month to find out what is happening in the case) that twice she has called my daughter-in-law back to apologize--once saying it was because she had a toothache. My first question: Can this get him off indefinitely--possibly forever? Will he EVER be forced to plea bargain or stand trial?? We don't seem to be able to get answers from the Prosecutor and are VERY frustrated. This crime was so heinous that those of us in the family continue to feel victimized as the killer seems to be "working" the system. We cannot seem to find closure until there is some resolution. In the meantime, our five year old granddaughter just celebrated the first of many Father's Days without her Daddy. We all know that he will never come back, but could possibly get on with our lives more easily if we felt that we were not still being taken advantage of by the "Criminal" Justice System. We have to agree it is not the Victim's Justice System. My second question: Since the St. Attorney's office is prosecuting the case, do we have any rights at all as far as a victim's advocate or choice of prosecutor is concerned?? We know that a great many of the victim's and their families are not educated caring family people, but feel that the State's Attorney's offices tend to treat us ALL with the same lack of respect. Any information you can give us regarding our rights in this matter are most gratefully appreciated.

To answer your first question, he could be found incompetent to stand trial. Under those circumstances, he wouldn't be released. He would be housed in a secure institution until he was restored to competency. If he could not be restored, then in most states he would be probated and since he committed a murder he would not be released.

It seems to me from reading your summary that he is malingering and although he is wasting the court's time, he eventually will be found competent to stand trial. I know that the justice system can be frustrating but there is really nothing you can do at this time.

Your second question sounds like you are not satisfied with the prosecutor assigned to the case. Again there is not a whole lot that you can do except make the person assigned to the case mad at your family. In that case, the prosecutor assigned to the case might not give the case their complete attention.

Therefore, my advice is to try to get along with the prosecutor but at the same time keep in close contact with him or her and let that prosecutor know that your interested in being informed about every aspect of the case.

If the diplomatic approach doesn't work ,then you should call the head prosecutor and register your complaint. If your still not satisfied, then your last resort would be to go to the local press. Since prosecutors are elected officials in most states, they are very sensitive to criticism from the press.

-Judge Robert Ruehlman

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If a murder qualifies as a death penalty case or could also be a life in prison case - can the victim's family insist on it being tried as a death penalty case? Our Colorado DA has decided that it is safe to go life in prison. Do we get a voice?

As a former prosecutor, I strongly considered the wishes of victims. However, there are times when it is not a good strategy to seek the death penalty. If the evidence does not amount to an open and shut case, it is often better to go for life in prison. If there is any doubt, a jury facing a death penalty decision will acquit a defendant.

-Judge Robert Ruehlman

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I never thought I would get this chance. I've wanted to ask these questions for the past 9 years. If you have children or know anyone who has them, then you know how much I love him and still miss him. I won't go into my other feelings or thoughts because I am not looking for sympathy, pity, or understanding. In the years that have past, I have learned that I must console myself. My son was killed February 23, 1992. He was 17-years-old. He was shot down like a dog in front of our home. He was treated much like one after his death. And myself, much like the mother dog. I am not a lawyer but I know that there was evidence and questions that should have been answered even before the "trial". It seems that the State's attorney nor the Judge gave a second thought as to why his killer's lover was searching and offering cash to anyone who could get me or my younger son to talk to her and not show up at court. I don't understand why the person who heard the killer brag about killing my son was not even questioned in court. But, a really big deal was made about getting a neighbor in court to testify that he saw the killer before and after the murder. I also would like to know why I was ignored when I told the State's attorney that my son's best friend (who was also there when he was killed) knew who the killer was, but had denied from day one that he did. Another question I have is, how could the Judge say the awful things he said to me in court? Never once did anyone stop to check on the attemps I made to get help for my children when I saw the streets taking them over. The police, boys clubs, churches, mentoring groups, etc, etc. (nobody cared). I will close with my biggest question of all. My son's killer was freed because the Judge had a reasonable doubt. My younger son and his cousin, who were there when my son was killed also described the killer as having hair on his face. They were asked if it was a beard, they said yes. The Judge said it was a goatee and there was a big difference between the two. So he found him not guilty. Why didn't the State's attorney inform the Judge that those two boys were only 13 and 14 years old? They knew nothing about the names for facial hair on men. I don't feel that was a good enough reason to let my son's killer go free. I was told after the trial by the State's attorney that there was nothing else she could do because the case was closed and her boss would not let her go any further. Is it that simple to close a murder case? I know that this may not be the place to get answers and I don't expect to. Thank you for listening and thank you for giving your time to POMC.

Once a defendant is found not guilty, he cannot be tried again because the double jeopardy clause in the Constitution prevents the state from trying someone twice for the same crime. As a result, most prosecutors are not interested in discussing a case that was lost.

-Judge Robert Ruehlman

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As a citizen of the State of South Carolina, I am greatly concerned about a murderer bieng set free when his eligibility for parole in January 2002 comes up. This man abducted, tortured and murdered three young girls in 1974, just a few years before the state instituted the death penalty, so unfortunately he is still alive. What can a citizen do to influence the parole board's decision to block his parole? How effective would a petition be? How many signatures would it need? Can I obtain court records pertaining to the case? Is there anything I can do? My brother was murdered and now his killer is out of jail. I want to make sure the families of these girls do not have to go through the hell we went through when we found out the black man who killed my brother did not serve his full sentence-- Thanks for your reply.

First contact the prosecuter of the county where this crime has occured. Remember, they are ellected officials and would be more than happy to help you, because this would generate publicity for them.

Have the prosecuter obtain the file and retreive old photo's and investigate reports. Also contact family members of the victims. Then call a press conference. This is easy, all you do is call the newspapers and the radio and television stations. The prosecutor will be more than happy to take the lead and he or she will probably have a family member of one of the victims at this press conference. Have the parole board's address available to the media, this will generate a lot of objection letters.

Next, start a petition drive with your friends and family, and remember to inform the press. Go to malls and public places and obtain as many names as possible and send them to the parole board.

Good luck,

-Judge Robert Ruehlman

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My brother was murdered on March 22nd of this year and the murderer was released immediately on a writ of habeus corpus..then posted 10% of 100,000 bond and beat his wife almost to death a few weeks later, then bailed out again on another 100,000 bond. He is pleading self defense, but I think it's despicable that a judge would allow bond to such a violent person.
He is supposedly under house arrest now, but he is free until trial and the DA is telling me that it's way to early to know what will happen.. but he is going to be happy with a minimum 20 yr sentence. I think he should get more... but now we are hearing through the rumor mill that the DA is planning a plea aggrement for probation. He is pleading self defense even though my brother was not armed with a weapon and was killed at his apartment complex while under the influnce of heroin.

My question is this: Are we screwing ourselves by hiring an independent attorny to check on the case and be our eyes and ears in the system? I try to trust what the DA says but he shows very little interest in our concerns and seems to to be setting our expectations as low as possible. The Victim's Assistant Rep has discouraged us from hiring an independent counsel and told us that this would only cost us more money and stir up the DA office. I am wondering if it is common to hire your own attorny to represent the victim family's concerns and make sure that DA is handling it in our best interests as well as the state's? We can not get victim's financial assistance to help pay of his student loan because they said he would have walked away...even though he was attacked by a man with a knife and had no weapon on himself. The DA tells us to wait and file a civil suit after the trial because it will hurt the murder trial more than it will help to include a restitution of his student loan. It really seems like we are being treated poorly because of his drug use at that time, he was just another kid doing the absolute wrong thing and did not deserve to be killed or have this trial be treated flippantly.

Thanks in advance for any kind of advice or information related to this!

DA's are elected by the people in their district. If you are unhappy with their decision in this case and you have discussed it with them, I would recommend calling the press. The press, in recent years, has taken an interest in victim rights and they would in all likelihood print a story about your dispute. This would cause the prosecutor to take a closer look at your case and not take a plea bargain that you disagree with.

If this doesn't work then hire a plaintiff's attorney that has a background in criminal law. A person with this background would know the DA and the DA's assistant, and would be better at negotiating for your family.

Good Luck

-Judge Robert Ruehlman

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I am having problems getings my son's belongings(just a coat and pair of tennis shoes). How long does it take? He was murdered in 1998, the murderer was convicted in 1999. The police dept.(Pontiac) told me I had to wait 2 years just in case he appealed, he did appeal right away and lost, and now when the 2 years would be up, he appealed to the Supeme court and that could take another 9 months just for a decision. Any advice??? Thanking you in advance.

Just have patience and wait until the appeals are over. You wouldn't want the killer to get off because of a technicality.

-Judge Robert Ruehlman

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My daughter was shot in the heart by a exboyfriend Nov.2 1982. I want all the evidence the court has. Her murderer was sent to jail and is now out. I have called our court house to see what I need to do and they send me to the Muscatine County Attorney's office. Over the years I have been in the court house vault and have list of what they have. This evidence will be destroyed next year. I would very much like to know what forms I need to get so I can get the last things my daughter had. These things don't mean anything to someone else but means everything to me. This murderer has taken everything my daughter had and everthing she would have had. To this day I am very bitter about him. I attended all his parole hearing and spent a good amount of time thinking daily "what can I do today to Wagner". I have gotton to the point of now leaving my daughter at her grave site. I think for about 10 years I never got past leaving her at her grave site. I would appreciate any help you can give me on the form I need.

I am not familiar with the law in your state, however, it seems to me that common decency would be a reason for giving your daughter's property to you.

In our state we have a replevin action that allows the owner of property from someone else who has no right to posses the property.

You could also file a motion with the courtroom that presided over your daughter's case.

-Judge Robert Ruehlman

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We have a daughter who was murdered in Sept. 1996. Her ex-husband and both of his parents were arrested in Jan. of '99 and have been in jail going on two years now. Each time the judge sets a trial date the defense is still not ready. First of all I would think if they did not feel guilty why would their lawyers to stall on getting the trial under way. And secondly they can keep up this stalling until the judge finally tells them the date is set and they must stick by it. They have had two dates and were never ready. What would cause a defense to keep dragging their feet? Is there anything we can do to pressure this into being completed, as parents? Our county is running out of money and that does not seem to be a concern of the defense. Only one of the three in jail have a private attorney, the other two are court appointed and paid. Thanks.

It is very disheartening when a judge delays a case for that long. The problem with complaining to the proscecutor, the press or the judge is that it would cause the judge to become angry with you.

Try holding tight and see how this plays out. If there are any more delays I would consider going to the press.

-Judge Robert Ruehlman

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Our 27 year old daughter was killed when hit by a semi truck, while running partly nude across an interstate. Her clothes were found 52 ft off the roadway, the man she was in the car with was charged with sexual assault, attempted rape and manslaughter. The state attorney just allowed him to plea everything away except for the manslaughter, for which he was given 10 years probation, when the state att. started talking like he was going to let this man plea out we tried to hire a private att. and were told that we could not do that because it was the state attorneys job, there were no eyewitness to this but there was a lot of evidence that should have gone against him. I feel like we let her down because we could not make the state att. listen to us when we told him we wanted to go to a jury trial. I am so upset over this plea bargain. Is there anything else we can do at this point? This state attorney just brushed her away like she was nothing. Why could we not hired our own att.?

Unfortunately, once a person has plead and been sentenced, there is nothing you can do. This is because the double jeopardy clause in the US Constitution prevents any further prosecution of a person after that person has been convicted.

-Judge Robert Ruehlman

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I have noticed that too many violent crimes are being committed by teens on psychiatric drugs. I am a law student who is researching this. Specifically drugs like Ritalin, prozac etc. Is there any case law where this has been successfully used as a defense?

I know of one case where acne medication was alleged to have caused so much depression that a young boy committed homicide. Actually it was an attempted murder, but the young man only managed to kill himself. It was the case out in California, where a young teen, who was on acne medicine, took a small plane and rammed it into a building.

-Judge Robert Ruehlman

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Our son was shot multiple times in the back and his body dumped in a road ditch.
The detectives working on his case called us into their office and told us the name of the man that shot our son. This man is now in federal custody for other crimes. The detectives told us they have 4 witnesses, including 3 eyewitnesses that have made sworn statements that this man shoot my son. They explained that the federal crimes that this man committed, and is charged in federal court for includes the firing of a gun. Now, this is the part I don't understand. The shooting of the gun is a federal crime because it occurred during the act of other federal crimes, but the fact that the end result, the death of my son, was not a federal crime because it did not occur on federal property. It would be a change of second degree murder in state court.
Thank you for your time.

He could be charged in state court for murder but the federal government could also charge him in federal court with violating your son's civil rights and that carries a life term. Furthermore, that would not be a violation of double jeopardy because it is two seperate crimes.

-Judge Robert Ruehlman

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My friend (34 years old and parent of two) was murdered last week. He was a TV technician traveling from hospital to hospital maintaining, installing and repairing the rental TV sets. His employer offered him overtime pay to take on an extra assignment. This "extra assignment" required him to perform cash pick ups at area hospitals during early morning hours (3am-7am). On Monday, he was set up by another employee of the company (18 years old ) who arranged for her boyfriend (27 years old parole) to rob him. Unfortunately, the robbery turned into a homicide and he was killed. He was not armed nor was he given any training in self defense or any other security precautions. Beyond what the family is entitled to under NYS Workers Compensation doesn't the company have some liability here?

The workers compensation law of most states provide a means for workers to recover compensation for injuries or death in the course of employment. However, these laws also prevent employees from bringing a lawsuit against their employer to recover for injuries or death unless they can prove that their employer intentionally injured them. In this case your lawyer would have to prove that your employment assignment was so inherently dangerous that it caused the death of this young man.

-Judge Robert Ruehlman

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My friend was working for a company that maintained rental televisions in area hospitals. He was a TV technician responsible for repair and installation. The company offered him some overtime hours to perform cash pick ups from the hospitals between 3-7 A.M. He was not armed, trained nor adequately supervised for this job function. This required him to pick up cash in areas known to be unsafe (South Bronx, N.Y).
He was murdered during an apparent robbery attempt after picking up cash at one of the hospitals. It turns out that he was set up by another employee in the company who knew when the cash pick ups occurred. The employee and her boyfriend ambushed him when he came out of the hospital and her boyfriend ended up shooting him fatally once in the neck.
I would appreciate your opinion based on the information above.

If these allegations are proven by the State of New York, they both could face the death penalty because they purposely killed your friend during an aggravated robbery.
As far as the civil liability of the employer, it is not very likely because employers are not liable for intentional acts of their employees.

-Judge Robert Ruehlman

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Are the jurors allowed to know the victims?
Also, just because someone has a rough background is that allowed to be held against him? My future son-in-law Luke was shot 3 times and his brother was shot and killed. Now all of a sudden the prosecutor says that Luke was no angel, so, when does that make it legal for someone to be shot and killed for no reason. If this is so there would be a lot more killings going on. I feel the prosecutor is either scared or she isn't doing her job fairly. What steps can be taken when you feel the prosecutor is either scared or she isn't doing her job fairly. What steps can be taken when you feel the law is not being just?

Meet with the prosecutor in charge of the case and explain your concerns. If you do not get a satisfactory response, then go to this prosecutor's supervisor and complain.

Finally, go to the elected prosecutor and explain that your next step will be to inform the press.

-Judge Robert Ruehlman

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I understand that the employer has no responsibility for the actions of its employees but what about their negligence in failing to provide adequate train, supervision and safety for its employee?

If these allegations are proven by the State of New york, they both could face the death penalty because they purposely killed your friend during an aggravated robbery.
As far as any civil liability of the employer, it is not very likely because employers are not liable for intentional acts of their employees.

-Judge Robert Ruehlman

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I was pregnant when my 11 month old daughter was murdered. My boyfriend was convicted of injury to a child and olny served 4 1/2 years. I have full custody of my daughter. My daughter is now 6 years old and knows nothing about what happened or him. Want his rights completely terminated, but don't know where to even start. What should I do?

You must contact a domestic relations lawyer in your city. He or she would file a custody action in the local domestic court. In all probability, your ex-boyfriend will not even appear and full custody will be granted. If he does appear, then he could fight for custody rights but he is not very likely to win.

-Judge Robert Ruehlman

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My 22 year old son was shot & killed November 23, 2001 & the individual who shot him was charged with first degree murder. It went to trial April 22, 2002. My question is when they went to pick the jury they questioned each one as to did any one of them know the defendant or his family or were any related. The ones who knew the defendants family or were related were asked could they serve on the jury with-out swaying to one side or the other. A few admitted that they would favor the defendant & his family. It wound up that one on the jury was related to the defendant & two were the defendants mothers close friends. When they first started at the very begining they had even called out the defendants fathers name. When they recessed I told the woman who worked in the district clerks office they had called out the defendants fathers name & they could not very well put his father on the jury. She told me that she was sure the prosecutor would not want to put anyone who was related to defendant on the jury. They did disqualify the defendants dad when they asked what was his relation. But they went ahead and put his first cousin on the jury & two of the defendants best friends. Probation for murder if he was found guilty was introduced to as well as the other punishment ranges. They did find the defendant guilty but when it come to the punishment phase it almost wound up in a hung jury but they did decide on 20 years. And 20 years compared to probation sounds good. But we are lost as to why they would pick a jury where there were some who admitted they were friends of the defendants family & one who was related. We live in a small town & knew that it would be hard for a jury not to sway to one side or the other. Personally I think its taking to big of a chance of keeping justice from being served properly. So I ask you to share what you can on this matter. It will be greatly appreciated.

It is difficult to pick a jury in a small community because everyone knows one another. There isn't an alternative except a change of venue, where the trial is moved to another community.
However, the prosecuter didn't ask for that and so the case proceeded to trial in our community. Unfortunately, there is nothing that can be done at this point because jeopardy has attached and the defendant cannot be tried again.

-Judge Robert Ruehlman

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Could you please tell me if there is a procedure that victims' families may follow to try to commute a death sentence of the convict to a life imprisonment sentence? To whom can they petition or appeal - a court, judge, or the Governor? What actions can the convict's attorney take on their behalf? Is this a federal issue or a state issue?

The procedure for commuting a death sentence must be pursued through the Governor's office of the state where the condemned person was sentenced to death.

The condemned person's attorney can present evidence and testimony in support of the petition to commute sentence.

-Judge Robert Ruehlman

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Are there any rules or laws that state when a person should resuce themselves from a case? from the detective in charge of a homicide investigation to the lead district attorney's investigator? What would constitute a conflict of interest? Thank you for your time.

Whenever a public servant's relative, friend or business associate is involved in a case, the public official should recuse.

This avoids any appearance of impropriety.

-Judge Robert Ruehlman

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What is the maximum sentence that a prisoner would serve if they were given a four year sentence on a non afggrivated crime, all they did was violate their parole, and how does the four one work if there is such a thing?

Every state has different rules on when to grant parole and good time.

-Judge Robert Ruehlman

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My seventeen year old brother was murdered here in Montanta almost two years ago. The actual murderer himself held out for a trial until last month and then pleaded guilty. It was a death penalty case. We just had his sentencing a day ago. His original plea bargain was not enough for us, so we pushed for more time, resulting in about 30 years before eligible for parole (150 yrs, 30 suspended, leaving about 25% of 120 yrs). His attorney said they would go for that if we, the family, agreed not to plead for a harsher sentence in our statements. We agreed. We know that the judge is not bound by the plea agreement and can sentence more or less than what was agreed. Hence, my father and I wrote our victim impact statements with a lot of detail about the criminality of the defendant and pretty much what we thought of him. We had written similar statements for another sentencing involved in the case and were allowed to read them. In this case, the defense attorney objected and ended up sort of cross-examining my dad on the stand. Then she objected when I got into the part of my statement where I wanted to remind the court of how horrible the defendant was. The judge then had me skip most of my statement and read the last three paragraphs. Other attorneys present said they had never seen that happen before. I feel it was my right to remind the court of these issues as the judge did have the right to lighten the sentence. After all, the judge does not see the evidence as he would in a trial. I really feel like we were railroaded by the defense attorney, and I am upset that the prosecutor didn't counter. My brother was shot six times in the head and his body burned twice by the defendant. This was a horrible, horrible case with a very evil defendant. Also, we learned that his defense attorney had launched a sort of "campaign" to get everyone she could to write to the judge and tell him what a Boy Scout the defendant was. How is all this okay with victim's rights? I am extremely upset by this.

It sounds like the prosecutor didn't explain everything to you. Unfortunately, once sentence is passed, there is nothing that can be done.

-Judge Robert Ruehlman

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I am a school employee in Ohio who has just enrolled a 6yo from Tennessee. The "mother" is unable, or refuses to provide birth certificate, SS card, medical records, proof of address, etc. We did receive an adoption paper (copy- not original). The paper names Oaklahoma as birthplace, and last known address of biological parents. Biological father is incarcerated there. I am terribly afraid that this is a case of foul play. The court in Tennessee waived the social investigation , and the interlocutory decree, and approved this adoption and name change 11-05-02, and 3 days later he is registering in Ohio with 1/2 of a given hyphenated name, and mom living with someone totally different. The adoptive father moved to Florida at this same time. My problem is that I don't know what or how much I can do, without losing my license. I understand the importance of confidentiality, but am afraid to not investigate. Can you give me advice on where to begin?

For the protection of the child, I feel you have an obligation to investigate. This could be a child that was taken from a parent in another jurisdiction as a result of a custody battle.

-Judge Robert Ruehlman

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The homicide took place in Tennessee. Our question is: Once the person has been formally charged with first degree murder, will the homicide investigators have the right to question/interrogate him further? Thank you

Once he is charged and arrested, the homicide officers will advise him of his Miranda rights. If he chooses to speak without an attorney, the officers can question him. After questioning,he will either retain an attorney or be appointed one and at that point, the police cannot question him without his attorney's pemission.

--Judge Robert Ruehlman

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My sister was murder on September 25, 2002 by the father of her three year old baby boy. He beat her to death and with the help of a friend dismembered her body and stash the pieces in garbage bags that ended at a dumpster and was never found. The grandparents of the three year old have been going to court to get custody of the child. Last week was the date that they were supposed to get full custody when the judge announce that the father of the boy, the murder wanted to be present when they give full custody to my parents. Now, about the boy, he was a witness to the abuse and torture his mother was going through in this relationship and is now seeing a psychiatrist twice a week to heal the damage the death of his mother caused him. Well, now that you know the circumstances could you tell me if there are any laws or rights that the father might be given to stay with the child or is it possible that he might want someone to take the child to visit him at prison? And if so can that right be given to him?

If the grandparents obtain full custody, they can prevent the father from receiving any visitation.

--Judge Robert Ruehlman

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I am a member and there are no chapter in Atlanta. My brother's unsolved murder has just been brought before the district attorney after 10 long years. He is undecided at this point. I would like to know how can I put pressure on him to make an arrest. Any direction you could give me would be very appreciated.

You have to keep calling him so he puts your case on the front burner. If there is no response, then go to the press.

--Judge Robert Ruehlman

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My son was murdered on September 20, 2002 in Daytona Beach, FLA. His name is Samuel F. Scrima and he was only 21 years old. They caught the murderers. A man 44 years old and a 29 year old woman. I asked the Daytona Police for a picture of these two people but they said nothing. There was no news cover in my home town of Freeport, PA and when I went online and found a newspaper by the name of Daytona Beach News-Journal there were several articles but they do not show pictures. How do I go about obtaining their pictures? Do you know who I should ask? I have been keeping records and I am making a book. My son will never die in our eyes. Also, if you could furnish me with any other informaiton that would be of value to me. Both are being charged with first-degree murder. They are trying to get the death sentence which I informed them that I want very badly. I also want to be there when this takes place. Would I be allowed? Any type of information would be deeply appreciated.

As the case proceeds to trial, most states have victim representatives who inform the victim's family about every aspect of the proceeding. The victim's representatives are usually affiliated with the prosecutor's office.

Call the prosecutor's office in the county that is prosecuting your son's killers and ask them to have a victim's representative contact you.

--Judge Robert Ruehlman

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My youngest sister was murdered in Turlock, CA on january 18 by a man who stalked her for over 8 months. The stalking started and continued in the state of New Mexico. As soon as she broke up with her boyfriend he started general stalking, following her to and from work, waiting for her at her gym. When we attended a family wedding in orlando he flew to my mothers house in Ohio and spray painted "PK is a WHORE" on my mothers garage door and then returned to Albuquerque to set fire to my sisters current boyfriends home. He then had them run off the road, passed out flyers with obscentites and my sisters cell phone number on it, made a death treat phone call to my mothers house saying "he knew where she is and there will be death in 2 minutes." All of this was reported to the ABQ PD as well as a restaining order filed. She finally fled to Turlock, CA and let everyone know of this mans exsistence. She attempted to file a restaining order put was told since no stalking had been done in turlock, they could not issue her one. He found her anyhow and shot her in the head dead! thank god he also killed himself. The problem i have is with the laws. Why do laws very from state to state? Why was there no protection given to my sister from the ABQ PD, who already has reports on this man with a pat record of violence, harassment and public vandalism? They never even pulled him in for any questioning. Every law protected him and did nothing for her. I want the word out on the serious of stalking and the lack of law enforcement. Thanks for your help.

My State of Ohio has a pretty tough stalking law as do other states, but the police and the stalking laws do not really protect victims from a determined mad-man. Therefore, I recommend that every victim protect his or herself with a firearm and I recommend that they receive training. If a victim,who has a firearm,is then approached by a person who is under a restraining order, the victim should shoot and kill him or her without any hesitation. It is better to be tried by twelve than carried by six.

--Judge Robert Ruehlman

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A childhood friend of mine was murdered along with her brother in April of 1978. How would I find out whatever happened to the person/people responsible? Every year around April since that time I think of my friend and wonder what kind of justice was served, though in my opinion there is no real justice in cases like this one.

Call the prosecutors office in the county where the murders took place.

--Judge Robert Ruehlman

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On February 14, 2000 my sister, Tina Wood and four of her six children were murdered in Warrensburg, MO. The perpetrator, Raymond E. Wood, is scheduled to go to trial on June 9, 2003. We have waited three years to have closure to this heinous crime. The Prosecutor, Mary Ann Young, has informed us that the likelihood of this case going to trial in June is slim. In March or April of 2000, the honorable, Jacqueline A. Cook, ordered an independent mental evaluation of Raymond. Dr. Jerome Peters examined Raymond and the results of his evaluation were given to the Prosecution and Defense early in of November 2002. The dilemma this family is facing is that Dr. Peters was an active member of the National Guard. A few days after his report was released, he was called to active duty, and was sent to the Middle East. What, if anything, can our family do to ensure that this doctor will be there for the trial in June? I have drafted a letter that I am going to send out to the senators of Missouri where the crime was committed, and also the senators of Alaska where I reside. It is my hope that someone will be able to pull strings to have Dr. Peters given a week or so of leave so he can testify in this case. Do you have any other suggestions that may be helpful in our plight? We just want closure. The defendant is mentally competent to stand trial. It is my biggest fear that if this doesn't go to trail soon, Raymond will have a relapse and thus the vicious cycle will repeat itself and we will never get closure. Thank you for your attention in this serious matter.

There is not a whole lot that can be done. The defendant has a right to have the testimony of the doctor.

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A childhood friend of mine was murdered along with her brother in April of 1978. How would I find out whatever happened to the person/people responsible? Every year around April since that time I think of my friend and wonder what kind of justice was served, though in my opinion there is no real justice in cases like this one.

If you call the prosecutors office in the county where the murders occurred, they should give you all the information you will need.

--Judge Robert Ruehlman

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I would like to know what is the procedure in getting a grand jury to look at a homicide case that has been ruled a justifiable homicide. After waiting for two years on the original police report, and reviewing Dr. Harry J. Bonnell analysis I am convinced that this so -called investgation was bungled from the start.

If you can convince a local judge, he could appoint a special prosecutor and convene a special grand jury to review the case.

--Judge Robert Ruehlman

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I have a sister in law who was murdered, her convicted killer is coming up for parole in California in June or July of this year. In prior years he came up for parole every 5 years now it is every year. I want to block his parole and petition to have him eligible every 5 years so we want have to relive this tragedy each year. My question is would we be better served having an attorney with us at the parole hearing or just have family members there? Also is there anything we can do to have his parole hearing come up every 5 years rather than every year? Please advise.

You can't change the parole rules overnight, you must call state representatives and state senators and it is a long drawn out process. Timer is of the essence at this point, because a parole hearing has already been scheduled. You don't need an attorney but you should contact the local prosecutor's office and have them fight the release. Prosecutors love to fight parole boards because it gets them favorable publicity. Also, rememeber to call the local news media, they are always interested in cases where the parole board is considering the release of a blood thirsty killer. Finally, get the help of friends, relatives and other people in your community to write the parole board and have these people attend the hearing in person. Parole boards are influenced by a large public outcry. Good luck.

--Judge Robert Ruehlman

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Would you please tell me how to get a copy of my Child Crime Scene Photo's?I have went through our District Attorney also the Sheriff Dept and the DA said he didn't have a problem with giving me a copy I have his letter and the one to the Sheriff Dept the DA did for me.These people went back on their word and refused me a copy.I have went to the General Attorney and still no luck.I wanted to do a Civil Case but I could get the picture's to make my case.This was a Alcohol Poisoning Case and underage girl they still refuse to charge these folks for hosting a party.Can you tell me how to get these picture's?I was told I would have to have a Court Order bu no one will do that for me.My Daughter death was a cover up I know this will out a doubt.Also the last person to see her alive left her in the woods to die and they didn't charge him either for Neg.Can you help me.If you could see these picture's you know that the person should of been charged.He lied to the Sheriff Dept and still they don't care!Please help me.

Go to the courthouse in your county and find out which judge has the equity docket. You can then file an action to obtain the photos from the sheriff's office.

--Judge Robert Ruehlman

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My sister was murdered on May 11, 2003. A black man shot the only white people in a bar. It is obviously a hate crime. The murder was filmed on a video tape, and the defendant is in custody. The defendant is going to plead insanity, and the prosecutor is not seeking the death penalty, because of the defendant's mental history. He is a repeat offender with ten felony convictions before this crime where he is charged with two murders and two attempted murders. I am concerned that he will be back on the streets if his insanity plea stands. I am looking for answers and help in calling attention to this injustice.

If he has mental problems, it is considered a mitigating factor and it would be a factor the jury would weigh in deciding a sentencing recommendation. Florida is a state where the death penalty is invoked by juries on a regular basis. If the prosecutor thinks it is a bad idea to go for the death penalty, he probably has a good reason. If the defendant is found to have been insane at the time of the crime, it is still very unlikely that he will ever be released into society.

--Judge Robert Ruehlman

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I have a sister in law who was murdered, her convicted killer is coming up for parole in California in June or July of this year. In prior years he came up for parole every 5 years now it is every year. I want to block his parole and petition to have him eligible every 5 years so we want have to relive this tragedy each year. My question is would we be better served having an attorney with us at the parole hearing or just have family members there? Also is there anything we can do to have his parole hearing come up every 5 years rather than every year? Please advise.

Parole hearing dates a set by state law. So you would have to change state law by calling a legislative member. As far as needing an attorney, you don't need one. However, it is always a good idea to call the county prosecutor and have him write a letter. Also, call the press because they ussually cover these cases. What often happens is that the prosecutor will also contact the press and it generates a groundswell against release.

--Judge Robert Ruehlman

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I work with a victim advocacy group in Canada, and one of the issue we have been struggling with are families of homicide victims who wish to access/see the prosecution file after the case has been settled/appeal issues are resolved. For example, many want to see crime scene photos. Access to this information is restricted by privacy laws. Do you know of any US jurisdictions that have legislation to address this issue?

With the freedom of information act, every jurisdiction in our country allows access to these files.

--Judge Robert Ruehlman

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I am trying to prevent my son from being murdered. He was beaten by a 17 yr. old on May 11th and his life threatened. The boy was on probation and has many priors; however, they did not keep him in custody. He was sent home with his father and later placed in a group home 65 miles from where we live. Upon his hearing date June 17th, he ran from his placement and has not been found. I do believe that his parents know where he is! My question is: What is the proper procedure for a case like this? The authorities here seem to think that it is a small town and nothing more will happen. I think they are wrong. This kids friends are stalking my house, driving by all the time and watching my family. I have taken lengths to get my son out of the area most of the summer. I am tired of my family being torn apart. What can I do?

Some states like mine, Ohio have protective orders that can prevent people like this from going near you, your house or your family. However, these often do not stop the threats and violence. I wouldn't run from anyone or allow these people to force you into removing your son form his home. Purchase firearms, learn how to use them and if threatened use the appropriate force to eliminate the threat.

--Judge Robert Ruehlman

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my daughter was murdered on June 5th 1974 the man who killed my daughter is up for parole and will he be able to come back to this small town I have four other grown married children and six grandchildren and another on the way they are all hard working young families who own homes and one owns a business we are all under stress that is becoming unbearable do we have to see this man on our streets or will he be sent some where else or do we all have to leave this town and state my heart is totally broken please advise me.

Head his parole off by contacting the local prosecutor and the news media. Most prosecutors are willing to jump on the bandwagon because it makes them appear tough on crime and it helps them get re-elected. Also, get all your friends and family to write protest letters to the parole board and copy them to the local news media.

--Judge Robert Ruehlman

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My nephew was murdered by my sister's husband in the basement of their home while he was downstairs in the basement playing his playstation. He was shot 3 times in the back and once in the leg. He was able to call the police in which that saved his mother's life because r right after his stepfather killed him he went upstairs and told his Mom what he had done and proceeded to shoot her. She was ale to crawl out of the house once that man told her the police was there. Apparently there was some kind of stand off because it took the police 2 hours to apprehend the murderer. The preliminary hearing was completed this week and the Judge said that there was enough evidence to bind him over. The detective told my sister that the next phase is a Grand Jury trial, can you explain exactly what happens in a Grand Jury and what is the purpose?

The judge at the preliminary hearing decided that there was probable cause to believe a crime was committed and he then bound it over to the grand jury. The grand jury is composed of eleven members, nine voting and two alternates. They meet in secret and the prosecutor presents the evidence to them. No defense attorney is present in the room with the grand jury and prosecutor. After the prosecutor presents his case, he leaves the grand jury room and the nine voting members decide whether there is probable cause. If at least seven voting members decide that there is probable cause to believe a crime has been committed, then the grand jury will return what is called a true bill and an indictment will be returned against the defendant. The case will then be assigned to a judge for trial.

--Judge Robert Ruehlman

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A friend was involved in a DUI crash that killed someone (IN FLA) what are the mim and max sentences if he has never been in trouble.

Every state is different. In Ohio, the penalty for aggravated vehicular homicide is one to five years, a felony of the third degree.

--Judge Robert Ruehlman

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My families are immigrants from Laos; my mother was a single parent of 7 children.
She has had to work hard all her life and even more so after my father?s passing 23 years ago.

The eldest of seven moved his family from Minnesota to Escondido, California in 1989. While living there he supported his common law wife and two children working as a Machine Technician with then Judd Wire Company. During the times he and his wife lived together they had some marital problems on and off. Until 1994 when his common law wife left for good. Taking the youngest child with her. From that point forward my brother decided to not fight and instead he had decided to let her go and he moved on with his life supporting his son.

On Halloween night October 31, 1995 an unknown man came to the door of my brother?s home wearing a ski mask. My then 10-year-old nephew had opened the door (thinking that it was a trick or treater). The masked man pulled a gun out at my nephew and ordered him to go to his room. Scared and shaken he did as he was told. All the while the masked man entered the house and had approached my brother who was trying to get up from the couch.
At the same time, an adult roommate who was home and was just coming out from the bathroom. The adult roommate states that she looked to see who it was but, wasn?t wearing her glasses couldn?t make out the man. My nephew, whom was standing at the bedroom door, had whispered for her to come hide in the bedroom with him. While in the bedroom the two heard some struggling and words being exchanged. They couldn?t make out the words other than my brother?s last word s saying. ? Hey brother let?s talk about it?. And then the shots fired. My brother was killed immediately.

As of today 8 years later, the case still remains unsolved. The City of Escondido Police Department has shuffled the case from one detective to another.
The last known detective assigned to the case was named Don Tulimero. I spoke with him for the last time 2 years ago and he told me that he?s been so busy with current homicides and haven?t had any time to look into my brother?s case. I was also, told they have very limited staff members to assist with the cold cases, my brother?s case is one of them. In my previous contacts with Detective Tulimero, I was not satisfied with his communications. I strongly felt I did not get the support from him that I needed. Only to be given one excuse after another.
Since my mom has very limited education and speaks in broken English. It?s hard for to her communicate and to understand most of the communication that the police had provided for her at the time of the murder. That?s when I stepped in and have taken the role of the speaker for my family. I desperately want justice for my family and closure. It?s been a long time and we haven?t had any luck in finding someone who wants to help or can help.

It's frustrating because, I feel that my plea for help is being ignored. I have tried to make contact with the police to get more information but have not had any luck. I feel that my brother?s case is just another case that gets stored in a cardboard box. Never to be looked at again. I am at my wits end and I want to tell my story and I am asking for assistance from anyone who is experienced in situations like this. I can provide the homicide case number if someone is serious in helping me find closure.

this is a cold case. The only way the police would re-open it, is if you went to the news media and approached a reporter with the idea of writing a human interest story about how the police failed to follow-up on a murder case because of the victim's ethnic background. This might work and it could cause enough controversy, to get the police to take another look.

--Judge Robert Ruehlman

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My 7yr old Niece was murdered (insecticide poisioning) last August, and the suspect was the childs Guardian. She works for an attorney in her county. We aren't sure, but we believe she is going to be represented by her own law firm she works for. Is this legal? Wouldn't that be considered a conflict of interest? They knew her as a co worker. The entire little town she lives in are all connected and this has ALOT to do with the way the child ended up dead. People in authoritive postions weren't willing to believe or except the idea this person could possibley be harming the child based on what they knew about the family, and now the child is dead. If she's allowed to be represented by her own firm I don't see how justice would be possible at all. The prosecuter undoubtedly KNOWS those attorneys. Thank you in advance for answering this frustrating question.

There is nothing in the rules of ethics that would prevent her from being represented by the firm she is employed by. Furthermore, the fact that this firm has attorneys that know the prosecutor is also not an ethical problem.

--Judge Robert Ruehlman

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My beautiful daughter, was murdered in February 2002. The murderer is only serving three years out of a twenty year sentence. He had twentyseven arrest and convictions before this. He was arrested several times using an alias. He was convicted of being a habitual offender in Feburary 2000. However, this man was still on the streets doing more crime and had been released the morning of this crime. If the justice system was doing their job, my daughter may still be alive today. Someone can take a life and be a habitual offender and only pay three years of his life. My daughter paid for his mistakes with her life. I lost a daughter and her daughter lost her mother because the justice system failed yet again. How are we suppose to protect ourselves when they don't? How can criminals get away with so much?, and everyone wonders what is happening to society.

This unfortunately has been a problem throughout our entire nation. I put a man on death row who had been on parole for less than one month, when he tortured and murdered an eighty-four year old women. Recently, I was informed that he had died of an illness while awaiting execution.
The only solution to this problem is through legislation that limits the power of parole boards to issue early release.

--Judge Robert Ruehlman

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My son, age 25, was one of three young men murdered in Verona WI (just outside Madison, WI) June 26, 2004. The trial is set to start in January 2005. We parents would like to run an ad, with the boys pictures, on the one year anniversary of when they were murdered. The caption would have their names and state "that they are still remembered and missed by their family and friends". Our concern is that the defense attorney would use this to request a change in venue to a different county. We would value your opinion.

If you want justice for these boys do not run that add. It would cause a change of venue. I am glad you asked, before going ahead with this.

--Judge Robert Ruehlman

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I have a legal question in regards to my grandchildren my daughter was murdered by her live in boyfriend and father of her children. My grandchildren live with his parents how is that...there son killed my daughter what are my rights without having to have lots of money to fight for my rights??....I don't understand how and why they can be with them...I'm her mother they were with my daughters father and wife and then everyone was giving them a hard time so he let them go with his parents...what are my rights and what can I do if I don't have alot of money?

Grandparents do not have the same rights as parents. My advice is to try to work out a shared custody arrangement with the defendant's parents. Under the law, they have as much right to the children as you, so you are going to have to get along with them.

--Judge Robert Ruehlman

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My 21 year old cousin was murdered by her ex-boyfriend, all evidence points to him, including he was the last one she was seen with and the fact she was found in the apartment they once shared. The trial is close approching and many family members feel the prosecution attorney is not capable of handling this trial, this will be her first murder trial and she offered him a plee bargin, even though she has a strong case, her excuse for that was the county just can't afford to go to trial, is there any steps the family can take to try and move the murder trial to another county so there can be a prosicuter who is willing to do thier job, or do you feel we should leave it alone, and let her try and do her job. And also when the time comes and we are going to the trial ( he did not except the plee) is there any tasteful way that the family can show thier support for the beautiful young lady that was taken from us. Also as of now the trial date has been set, and they are expecting it to last 3 days, I plan on being there through the whole thing, but I have to take off work to do so, How likely is it that the trial date could be moved on last moment, the trial is about 6 hours away from where all the family live.

At this point let the prosecutor do her job, you can't get the case transfered to another county. Also, don't do anything that would cause a mistrial. For instance, don't wear shirts or signs with the victim's name or photo on them.

--Judge Robert Ruehlman

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I have searched the N. C. Statutes and cannot find the laws governing moving the body of someone who has been murdered. Will you please let me know if it is a state or federal offense to move the body of a murder victim in North Carolia?

Moving a body in any state would be the crime of tampering with evidence.

--Judge Robert Ruehlman

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My three month old grandson was killed three months ago by his father. He is being charged with first degree murder, child abuse resulting in death, and child sexual abuse. The preliminary hearing is next week - which I understand is the time for the prosecutor to present evidence to the judge who will determine if the evidence is sufficient to take to trial. We had a family meeting with the prosecutor last week where she explained the process and the evidence, however the part that I did not understand is that she said myself and my daughter (the baby's mother) should not be in the courtroom for this hearing or for the trial itself because we may be called as witnesses and that we would therefore be "contaminated" and that we would be open to some pretty harsh and difficult questioning....But it seems to me that all we can say is what we know I do not understand - my need to be there and hear what happened and what is going on is tremendous. As is my daughter's. Can you explain to me what all this means so I can help myself and my daughter make a good decision? Thank you

Follow the prosecutor's instructions. Every state has a separation of witnesses rule. This rule prevents a witness from testifying if that witness sat in court and heard the testimony of other witnesses. You can always read the trial transcripts or see a video recording of the proceedings if your state allows cameras in the courtroom.

--Judge Robert Ruehlman

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My brother was murdered on Nov. 28, 2001. He was with two friends in a small car. They were at a convenient store when my brother and a man in the parking lot supposedly had words. Another man in the parking lot with a very long criminal past approached the car, leaned in the window, stuck his gun directly against my brother and fired killing him. the driver of the car claims the car would not start. The man in the backseat was told to go in the store and call 911. There is a videotape of inside the store where the youngman is seen going in and trying to buy ciggarettes. While my brother is dead in the car. The driver of the car finally got the car started and drove to the hospital. There ER personnel tried to revive my brother, but he had died instantly not losing a drop of blood. These two guys that my brother was with that night were childhood friends. so we thought they were friends. The police dept did not believe their story of what happened that night. But did not investigate any further. We are from a small very political town that I fell has unjustly served my family. This case has still not gone to trial, the accused (the man from the parking lot) still walks the streets out on bond. The DA's office continues to put this trial off. It was bad enough they went for an indictment before any of the forensic or coroner's reports were back receiving an indictment for being a felon carrying a firearm. this was plain out murder. And to make it worse the man driving the car (supposed to be my brother's friend for many years) knew the shooter, but said he could not identify him and still claims he did not know him. I am still working on getting proof of this something I think the police should have done. there are alot of questions in this case that need to be answered. How can the police and district attorney get away with not doing their jobs? How does my family get justice for my brother that was barely a month into his 25th year? There is so much more I could tell you we even have most of the documents , but it would take me a book of pages to write it all out. Another question is how can a man claim self defense when they are on top of someone in a car?

It might be a good idea to obtain an attorney to bring a civil lawsuit against the defendant. Hire a civil attorney that also has a criminal trial practice. In this way you will have a legal representative who knows the members of the local prosecutor's office and who can hopefully motivate them to be more aggressive.

Also, this would be an appropriate time to call the press and explain how the case has been mishandled. Prosecutors are elected officials and any criticism they receive in the press, will cause them to take notice.

--Judge Robert Ruehlman

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The person that murdered my son on Jan. 28, 2001 was just set free by the Florida courts. We waited 3 1/2 years for the trial and when it finally came the defendant had the right to choose what he wanted for charges to go to the jury! I have never heard of such a thing. He chose to waive the lesser charge of manslaughter and go with second degree murder or not guilty! He was allowed to do this and was found not guilty and let go! I am upset to say the least but amazed that the law in Florida gives them this right. My son was shot twice at point blank range and left to die on the ground. This person tried to claim self defence and his lawyer made my son out to be a monster! There was no chance to let the jury know what my son was really like or that he was a young and caring father of two boys. They simply let the jury decide that they did not think life in jail was the right sentance so they let him go! Florida needs to wake up before more people are killed and their killers roam the streets looking for more victims. What can we do? I am a member of POMC and my sons name is on the wall. How can we change these laws? I can only Thank God I live in New Hampshire with his sons and we will not see this person on the street or run into him anywhere. Please help, I do not understand what happened.

It sounds like the defendant's theory of the case was self-defense, which is accepted in every state in the union. There is really nothing you can do to change that law.

Furthermore, once a defendant is found not guilty, double-jeopardy prevents any further prosecution.

--Judge Robert Ruehlman

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My 18 month old granddaughter was killed on May 07, 2004 and my question is: My son's girlfriend, whom is pregnant with his child has been proven by reports to be the perpitrator in her death. The top people have worked on this case in Kentucky and there has yet to be an arrest. I feel it is because the lady is pregnant and our state does not wish to pay for the newborns birth by placing her in jail before her due date of August 27th. The death cert read, cause of death: 1. anoxic encephalophy 2.Brain Injury 3.Shaken Impact (27 1/2 hr duration) 4.Blunt Trauma to Head, Torso and Extremities and HOMICIDE by Perpitrator. Something is very wrong that this woman has not been placed in jail as of this date! The coroner's inquest is being held today at 2PM, the investigators are very evasive with our questions. Please sir , can you offer any relief in our confusion of why this case is not proceeding at a faster pace!

Wait until the coroner's inquest is over and he has released his decision. It is better to take time and put a good case together for prosecution than to rush an indictment that cannot be successfully prosecuted. Wait until the coroner's inquest is over and he has released his decision. It is better to take time and put a good case together for prosecution than to rush an indictment that cannot be successfully prosecuted.

--Judge Robert Ruehlman

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I am writing this letter to ask a question, my son & his best friend both were victims of homicide on July 6, 2000, in Washington, DC by an another friend. I am unable to give details because it is still under going trial proceedings. Though my question is for the last for years I have been awaiting the start of the trial only to have it constantly delayed, postpone for one reason or another. I am understand being that it was more than one person involved and certain procedures had to be applied, however now the trial has been delayed yet again. Which the trial was due to start on 9/13/04 only to be postpone until 1/24/05 because the Judge has other trials to be heard, though they knew that back on 1/26/04 when the trial was to start then too? I am just not understanding this, I know it's a matter of having patience, though "My Life" have been place on hold it's at a stand "STILL". I have not work for the last 3 yrs waiting for this trial to start because it has been mentally challenging for me. Am I allowed to express these feelings to the Judge and by the way this is the 3rd judge handling the case. I feel like this is the Hollywood shuffle and I was told come 1/24/05 it will be with YET another NEW JUDGE!!!!!

There is no reason for a trial to take three years, just to get started. In my courtroom, I try to bring even major trials to a conclusion within two months.
If I were you, I would go to the press and complain. The local paper or electronic media outlets would most likely be interested in this story.
Once this hits the news, you will be surprised how quickly the court responds to your case. Judges do not like being criticized.

--Judge Robert Ruehlman

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My 21 year old son was found with an intra-oral gunshot wound to the mouth in the city of philadelphia inside of his car running with the headlights on in front of the building which he was employed.The police that arrived on the scene believed it to be a suicide due to positioning of the body and blood spatter inside the vehicle.The gun was missing,his wallet.pants pockets turned inside out and several other items. This all took place on July 13,2004. I know my son and truly can say he did not do this. He was a very responsible young man who held a full-time position and took classes at our montgomery county community college pursuing a career in law enforcement. He had taken the PA state trooper exam,the philadelphia police exam and our local police department in Abington exam which he took 2 times to score high enough to advance to the physical exam.He had just received the information about Abington on July 4th. My husband was outraged when he arrived at the M.E office and they stated the police told them that was the cause of death. We immediately requested an autopsy. Since then we are still waiting for the report since our death certificate says that it is pending investigation.I have seen mention of something called a coroners inquest and am not quite sure of what that all means or how does a person go about getting one if they feel they need to pursue that avenue?No one in our family,friends or co-workers have ever been questioned regarding what type of person he was his state or mind or anything dealing with mental illness in our family. There is no suicide notes or anything........We are truly baffled and feel the same system which our son believed in and wanted to dedicate his life to is the same one not giving him the justice he deserved in the investigation of this case. How do you not even dust the vehicle for any finger prints when it is quite clear that a robbery also occurred in this case. I thank you for your return reply.

The coroner's office is required to give you all of their files and all information pertaining to this case. Furthermore, the police are required to turn over all of their investigative files. After obtaining this information you should hire a private investigator who has an extensive background in law enforcement. Allow this investigator to review the files and if he or she believes that it was a homicide, you should hire an attorney with a criminal law background to pursue the case. He or she should meet with the police and the prosecutor an attempt to persuade them to re-open the case.

--Judge Robert Ruehlman

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My daughter was murdered at home and I found her. They arrested the person and charged him with first-degree murder. They have evidence which is his confession and the gun. This person HAS to be convicted, can you explain to me what lies ahead? Thank you.

If your state has the death penalty, the first decision that the prosecutor will make is whether to seek death or life in prison.The case will be presented to a grand jury and after the defendant is indicted, the case will be assigned to a judge. At this point you will be contacted by the prosecutors who are assigned to the the case. It will be important for you and your family to stay in contact with these prosecutors. Don't be embarrassed to call them to ask questions. Remember that prosecutors work harder on cases where the family of the victim is actively involved. A problem that you should be prepared for involves the rule on separation of witnesses. You will probably be called as a witness and in many states witnesses are separated and cannot be present during the trial. Please don't complain to the prosecutors or the court. It is a rule that they cannot change and they are bound by it.

--Judge Robert Ruehlman

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Is it legal for a murderer to have 2 defense attorneys? Also, why 2 , which is very unusual, most of the cases brought up have only one. I would so appreciate an answer.

Defendant's can hire as many attorney's that they can afford. Indigent defendant's who are charged with Capital Murder are always given two attorney's because of the complexity, work load and potential penalty involved in those cases.

--Judge Robert Ruehlman

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Why is it that my girlfriend who lost a son in the prison system can not get into the grand jury hearing?

Grand Jury hearings are secret for two reasons. One is to protect the reputations of persons who have been investigated but not indicted and second, if a person is being investigated, the prosecution does not want that person to become aware of the investigation and flee the jurisdiction.

--Judge Robert Ruehlman

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Whitney Reeves was sentenced to death for the murders of my 14-year old daughter and husband in sept. 1999. The death certificates I have show that the time of death was 08/22/1999 at 12:10 a.m. Whitney's date of birth is 08/21/1981. Officials are saying that he is one of the death row inmates elligable for release into the prison population. Is there anything I can do to keep this from happening. I did not know that you can change the date on a death certificate!!
Write back for more information.

I am sorry for not being clear. Whitney Lee Reeves was sentenced to Death in Sept 2000 for capital murder of Alicia and James Houk. The new ruling says that 17 year olds is exempt from the death sentence. On the death certificates of Alicia and Jim, the time and date of death is listed as 08/22/1999 @ 12:10 a.m. Whitney was born 08/21/1981. I have ben told that the D. A. is checking into the situation and it depends on what type of agreement was presented to the supreme court before I could get some answers

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last week that states cannot execute anyone who committed a capital murder when they were less than 18 years of age at the time of the crime.

If they can prove that he was 18 or older at the time of the crime, they can execute him.

--Judge Robert Ruehlman

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When the appelate starts hearing oral arguments on our daughers murder case, are we allowed to go to the appelate court and hear these?

Yes, under our Constitution all Courts must be open to public.

--Judge Robert Ruehlman

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when a DA accepts a plea bargain and other charges are "dismissed" can the defendant ever be tried for those "dismissed" charges?

If a plea bargain has been accepted and the defendant pleads guilty to a crime on the condition that other charges would be dismissed, those dismissed charges can never be brought up again.

--Judge Robert Ruehlman

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Our daughter was murdered in 1996, so it has been awhile. The conviction for three people took place in July 2002, at our county court house and they were all found guilty of the crime. THis was Karyn's ex-husband, and ex- in laws. They were sentenced to maximum security and were immediately sent to their respective maximum security prisons. The oral arguments is coming up for the case this Wed. in Springfield, Il. for the appelate court. We have been invited to go to these and do plan to go and listen in. This is making me very nervous as I realize the appelate court could send it back for a re-trial if they wanted too. How often does this happen? It scares me that there might be any reason for them to be freed due to the fact our family is not safe if they are on the streets once again. Thanks for listening and any helpful advise you might be able to offer would be very much appreciated. This trial took many weeks and the Judge allowed the defense extra time to collect all their data, make additional phone calls, and time to call in additional wittness' so I think he was covering all the basis at the time of the trial.

Appellate courts rarely overturn criminal cases. Unless the trial judge made a major error it is not very likely that the conviction will be overturned.

--Judge Robert Ruehlman

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My daughter was murdered by her father. After the M.E. finished their autopsy her body was transfered to the funeral home. After her funeral I had wanted to cremate her. These were always my wishes for myself, and I did not want to leave my daughter by herself while I moved out of the state. I want to keep her ashes with me. Her father has "politely demanded" that her body not be cremated and be given a "proper buriel" because of this "religious beliefs". Now I let the defense perform their own second autopsy on my little girl, allowing them plenty of oppurtunity to collect evidence. Why can I not get my daughter cremated?! Does he have the right to stop this even though he was responsible for her death?! This issue angers me greatly and I am willing to postpone her cremation until even after the trial, but can he still prevent me from cremating her even after-the-fact of the trial?

After the independent autopsy that was performed by the defense, there would be no reason to prevent cremation. Certainly, the defendant would have no standing to object.

--Judge Robert Ruehlman

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How often does a murderer get to change their mind about pleading guilty or not guilty? First he says he is "not guilty" (he IS GUILTY and there is evidence to prove that) then he says he wants to plead guilty, then he says he is "not guilty" and the court goes along with this. Shouldn't there be a procedure on this, and, how long can they continue this?

After he withdraws his plea of guilty, the court should set the case for trial. In my court, I very seldom allow anyone to withdraw their plea of guilty.

--Judge Robert Ruehlman

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Our daughter was murdered, shot in the head, and they caught the person that did it, but the person is implicating someone else. What can we expect to happen and how soon?

The prosecutor will go forward with the first defendant's case and then will investigate the other person that was implicated.

--Judge Robert Ruehlman

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I recently found out that the man who murdered my daughter was found guilty five days previously of domestic battery against his own brother. The prosecuting attorney says that we can't use this information in the upcoming murder trial. Why???? This man did not even know my daughter. He was on probation at the time and was specifically told by the magistrate that he was not to consume alcohol or possess a firearm. All of which he did. I know that the domestic violence laws are not what they should be and I don't know where to begin to help to fix them. Any advice? I don't want another family to go through this hell if there is anything I can do to stop it.

It all depends on the Rules of Evidence in your state. In Ohio only felonies and crimes involving dishonesty can be introduced during the cross exam of the defendant. If the defendant doesn't testify, the jury will never know about the prior crimes.

--Judge Robert Ruehlman

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My grandson's best friend John was murdered he was only 19, they were as close as brothers, and John was a close part of our family since he was 10. The trail is coming up at the end of this November, and it seems like the murderer has all the rights, he decides if he should accept the plea or we should go to trail. He has no remorse at all or he wouldn't be putting us through this for a year and it still could be postponed at the whim of the defendant. We are dreading the trail and what if the murderer is set free or only gets a few years. We are so frustrated by the legal system and we don't know where to turn for help so we just pray for justice for John.

Most states have victim advocates that help victims follow cases through court. Is there one in your state? The victim's advocate is supposed to look out for your interests but often they are part of the prosecutor's office.

Another option is to hire an attorney who is an ex-prosecutor and who now practices criminal law. Usually, criminal defense attorneys have a good relationship with the prosecutor's office and he or she could represent your interests.

--Judge Robert Ruehlman

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My son was killed Jan 18, 2002, in Savannah GA while visiting his grandmother. He was not a gang member nor was involed in any illegal activities. Police investigated on Feb 12, 02. They apprehended two male. They both made video ommissions that they were involved and blaming each other as the shooter. The ADA fail to submit the facts and they are out on bond already. How can the two guys just walk free like that and my son's case is a cold case now. May be because it is black on black crime.

Im so sorry to hear of the loss of your son, I can only imagine the pain that must cause your family. This does sound a bit odd that even after confessing their involvement neither of them were prosecuted. I can only imagine that the District Attorney?s office didn't believe that there was enough evidence to convince a jury that one or both of the boys were involved in the murder of your son. I think the police were on the right track when they arrested the two but it would be difficult to argue to a jury that each of them were the shooter when only one person pulled the trigger. What the police and prosecutor need to be able to do is corroborate the statements made by the two boys. If all you have is the two of them standing there pointing the finger at each other, you are not able to prove that either one of them committed the crime. More evidence is needed to convict one of them and the police and prosecutors need to know who the actual shooter is. It wouldn't be right to convict someone for a crime they didn?t commit.
The only hope is that in time, additional evidence will be discovered that will prove that one of the boys committed the crime. This can still happen years after the crime so I encourage you to keep your spirits up.
Good luck.

--Judge Robert Ruehlman

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The murder victims mother, is so afraid to say anything for fear that the judge will get mad if they don't take the plea or they have to go to trail. The assistant district attorney is no help and he knows he can put the fear in her and she feels hopeless and helpless. When I called the DA's office and asked if we could get a different DA and said I didn't feel they were doing enough to fight for John we were able to get a meeting with him and he talked a good case and next time she went to the mediation he had them afraid if they didn't take the plea this murderer would walk and the judge would go against them. But the murderer refused the plea and now they are going to trail, and it looks like their will be a postponement which will drag it out even more. I'm afraid to over step my boundaries but I want justice for John and I feel he is calling out to me to help him, and I don't have enough knowledge in dealing with the criminal justice system to know what to do, and that's the way they like it. What exactly is the role of the victims advocate? Thank you for your response and attention.

The victim's advocate is supposed to look out for your interests but often they are part of the prosecutor's office. Another option is to hire an attorney who is an ex-prosecutor and who now practices criminal law. Usually, criminal defense attorneys have a good relationship with the prosecutor's office and he or she could represent your interests.

--Judge Robert Ruehlman

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I am 21 years old and I live in Richmond, VA. My mother was murdered in GA on 11/27/2005. They have two women in custody for her murder. However, the ADA's office has not been keeping us informed on information regarding their trial. I just recently found out that he is considering letting one of them plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter. The sentence that goes along with this is unacceptable to me and my family. He is also considering a lesser charge of murder for the other person (because my mom is not a sympathetic victim) Is there anything that can be done. No one that I know has ever had to deal with anything like this. I just don't know what to do. Any help would be appreciated.

You need to call the prosecutor in charge of the case as well as the prosecuting attorney elected from that juridiction and let them know your feelings. In fact, it would be a good idea to set up a meeting and then you could meet the prosecuting attorneys face to face and explain your position.

--Judge Robert Ruehlman

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Can the criminal background of the murderer be brought up during the trial? Can the criminal background (if any) of the victim be brought up during the trial?

If the defendant takes the stand to testify, the prosecutor can cross examine him about prior felony convictions or convictions for offenses that involved dishonesty. The prosecuting witnesses can be examined in the same way.

--Judge Robert Ruehlman

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The man who killed my daughter, is coming up for his first appeal on Monday June 26. The prosecuting attorney has told me not to worry. The defense attorney made several motion hearings and I don't understand what is going on. The jury found the defendant guilty of First Degree Murder with No Mercy. I know he is automatically given one appeal. Is this it in the court which found him guilty? He will be going back in front of the same judge. I guess I am just confused. Any explanation would be helpful.

All appeals of criminal convictions go to a panel of ussually three appellate court judges who review the transcripts and hear the arguments of the prosecutor and the defense attorney. They then issue a written opinion either upholding the convicton or sentence or reversing it. The judge who tried the case is not involved in the appeals process.

--Judge Robert Ruehlman

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The man who murdered my daughter was found guilty of First Degree Murder with no mercy on April 28, 2006. We were back in court for post trial motion hearings in June. The defense attorney states that he wants a mistrial due to the fact that one of the jurors overheard someone behind her in a convenience store say "there is one of those bitch jurors in the Lister trial. If we kill some of them off maybe Scott could go free". The juror went to the bailiff and the jury and informed them of the comments. She then went in front of the Judge in a bench conference which lasted about 1/2 hour. The Judge put her back on the jury after asking her if she could sit fairly. She stated that she could and also that she did not feel the treat was credible. She did not identify the individual who made the remark and immediately left the store. We also had no alternate jurors left at this point. The defense attorney states that this made the jury "biased" against his client and he did not get a fair trial. The Prosecutor stated that if we asked for a new trial based on comments made to jurors, almost everyone would get a new trial. Case law that the defense is using is actual physical contact with a juror. The Prosecutor has found other case law to back the Judges ruling. The Judge said he would give us a written reply in one to two weeks. It has been four weeks and we have yet to hear anything. Can the Judge take as long as he wants to make a decision? The one year anniversary of my daughter's death is August 10 and I really don't want to carry another burden around with me. What are your thoughts on this matter. I live in West Virginia and am sure the laws are different in your State. I am living on pins and needles. I can't imaging going through a new trial. The Prosecutor tells me not to worry, because he cannot see this being overturned. He states that it would set a precedent in the State that all Jury's would have to be sequestered. Any thoughts would help a panic stricken mother.

There really isn't a time limit for the Judge, but hopefully he will make a decision soon. No matter what this trial judge decides, the case could get overturned on appeal. Whenever outside contact is made with a juror during a trial, appellate courts use a very strict review. If the jury's verdict is overturned, the case will be tried again. The defendant will not be freed.

--Judge Robert Ruehlman

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We attended the appellate court hearing in NJ, where the convicted murderer of our son had his public defender argue why he should have less of a sentence. He stabbed my son 76 times; Aggravating factors 1,3,9 were cited by the sentencing judge; unbelievably, the PD argued that 3 and 9, 3 especially, were not appropriate. He twisted vocabulary; when the appellate judge spoke of how brutal and heinous the murder was, the PD use the word "passionate" to describe it; how do they sleep at night? Anyway, our case was remanded for resentencing since an NJ Supreme Ct. ruling in Aug. 2005 states presumptive sentencing is no longer appropriate and that many cases must go back to be heard again at Superior Ct and resentenced. I don't need to explain how shocked we are and dismayed. Could this subhuman actually have his sentence lowered to the "presumptive" 20 yrs from the max of 30 yrs (aggravated manslaughter)?

Don't worry, the decision simply means that courts cannot use sentencing guides when sentencing a defendant. Therefore, the Judge will re-sentence the defendant without using the sentencing guides and the Defendant will receive the same sentence.

--Judge Robert Ruehlman

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On April 24th the man who murdered my son, had the appeals court attempt to reverse the jury's decision on a technicality. It has been over 5 months now, and still now decision has been handed down. Is this normal? Why would it take so long - and do you think it is possible that they would release a man who murdered 3 people (at different times), dismembered their bodies, hide the remains in a freezer, and over a month later, burn them past cremation. Release him on a technicality?? How do they base their decisions? I need some help here on how the courts handle this.

Most appeals take at least a year. I know it is hard to be patient but appeals traditionally take a long time.

--Judge Robert Ruehlman

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my son was killed by a friend with a gun. My son went to visit his friend on probation at his home before going to pick up his fiance from work. My son was 20 and 2 months to the day. He is the kind of young man that actually walked old ladies accross the street. He would help anybody at all. He made many friends from just being there for people, always ! His funeral was to big for the Funeral Parlor. Over 1,000 people of all walks of life were there to say good-bye to my wonderful son.
The young man (19) that did this to him is in Pinellas County Jail with no bond, ONLY because of his priors. He is on probation for many offences. The gun belonged to the shooter. And the Mom was there. She was in her room when she heard a pop. She came out and found my son on the kitchen floor. He was shot in the living room, he followed Julian the killer to the back of the house while Julian went to hide the gun. My son begged for his help while he layed there dieing. For the next 10 minutes or more the Mom and son didnt do anything to help my child. The 911 report states that while they were on the phone to them, the son gave the phone to his mom so he could go to the bathroom and then she passed the phone back to her son so she could get the dog in the back yard that was barking.
The state doesnt seem to think that the Mom should be charged with anything. I say Culpable Neglagance if not more. As a mother her first instinct would be to help a child. Well she did, she helped her son hide the gun. The state looks at this as an open and closed case. There are so many unanswered questions but they do not want to take anymore time on this. Of course his lawyer does.He is buying Julian time in County Jail so he doesnt have to go to state prison to serve his time. I AM ANGRY ABOUT THE GAMES THEY CAN PLAY WITH MY SONS DEATH. Also no one seems to want to look into the mothers actions. WHY? My son is dead. I am not the same woman, person at all. I have left my job after 15 years with the school board. I have lost everything, mainly my child. my buddy, my confidont, my angel. No one seems to want to see Justice. HELP me please. Direct me....

I know how you must feel. However, the case against the mom is not strong. My advice is to bring a civil lawsuit against the mom. She clearly was negligent under civil law.

--Judge Robert Ruehlman

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How can I get a law passed that would require a victim to be on the Parole/Pardon Board in our state? Is this a realistic goal of mine?? Do you know it this is done in other states?

Contact your local state legislator and tell him or her about your proposed bill. If he or she is not interested, go to another legislator until you find one that is interested. You should also go to the local press and inform them of your idea.

--Judge Robert Ruehlman

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My son was 22 when he was stabbed and killed on 07-04-06. The charges were murder 2nd degree. The defendant plea bargained down to voluntary manslaughter. The sentencing will be April 27th. Can a judge change his mind before the sentencing and not accept the plea.

If the defendant already accepted the plea bargain and pleaded guilty. Then, the Judge cannot vacate the plea.

--Judge Robert Ruehlman

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Why is a prisoner, sentenced to life without parole in Florida, moved to a prison closer to his family? I believe he should be as far away from family as possible, to make his life miserable.
We moved north to be close to our son’s grave, and we feel the prisoner should be treated with the same contact rights we have – NONE.

No one can direct the prison authorities to house or not to house a prisoner in a certain part of the state.

--Judge Robert Ruehlman

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My son was robbed and shot to death on March 24/2006. When I asked the prosecutor for a copy of the autopsy, he said that was not possible at that time, when I asked him why he said it will come out when we go to court. The one who shot my son has a record sinces he was 14 yrs old. He was 19 yrs old last year when he robbed my son and shot him and just got out of jail 45 days before. And he has been in and out of the system sinces he was 14 yrs old. Now I am going through these pre-trial matters. Now the judge asked if there is a plea on the table. I think I should be able to get the report on the autopsy. I live in New Jersey. Please advise me on this matter.

An autopsy is a public record. By law in very state, the public records law allows you to get that report.

--Judge Robert Ruehlman

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Our seven month old son was killed by his babysitter by shaken baby syndrome. I dropped him off at 7:20am and 911 was called after 3 pm. So there is little question that she did this unless someone else was there. Anyways my question is this, this lady was given back custody of her children almost a year after this happened, six months after the autopsy came back. Is there anything that we can do to stop this. She also had another child almost four months ago. I believe that this child is in danger, and am frightened. The judge that gave her, her children back was going out of office, and the lady who was voted in was from the procutors office. So there was some harsh feelings there. I don't agree at all with someone who has been accused of killing a infant to be able to care for another one until she goes to trial. Once again is there anything we can do?

I'd go to the newspapers and electronic media and complain. You can bet that the elected officials in your community will sweat.

--Judge Robert Ruehlman

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On November 3, 2006, my grandson(Sheldon) who was just 15 days from his first birthday was killed by my daughter-in-law's boyfriend. While my son was in Bangor, Washington in the Navy, serving our country, his wife moved my 5 grandkids in with her boyfriend.. As the story goes the boyfriend was throwing Sheldon up in the air and he dropped him on his head. Instead of taking him to the hospital the boyfriend put my poor Sheldon in his crib and left him there. My daughter-in-law did'nt check on him for at least 3 hours when she finally did he was dead. My grandkids were put in care of my daughter-in-law's mother. My son came home to find out his wife was cheating on him plus his son was dead and the other kids were with his mother-in-law and Child Service would not let my son see his kids unless supervised. Even I was not allowed to be with my grandkids. I am not allowed to have custody of my grandkids. The boyfriend of my daughter-in-law is running free because my daughter-in-law is saying it was an accident. So the court won't press charges. The court still does not want to give my son his children back. I think the court is unfair to my son while the man and woman who were responable for killing Sheldon are running free. I would really be grateful if you would check this out and see why my son is denied his children..

You need to find a domestic relations lawyer who can file for custody of your grandchildren. There will be a hearing and at that time you can present evidence that they are being mistreated.

--Judge Robert Ruehlman

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My new husband (Aaron) son was beaten to death in AZ in Feb. 2005. Caelob was 5 years old. He was beaten by Aaron's ex-wife's boyfriend, Jesse Herrera.

Jesse has been in custody since Feb 2005 and Stephanie (Aaron's ex) has been on Felony Child Endangerment Probation since that time.

We just received notice that Jesse has agreed to plea bargin to 2nd Degree Murder with a sentence of only 18-22 years!!
The Prosecuting Atty. has asked my husband to write a letter to the court concerning his feelings about the case, what Jesse did, and what sentence Jesse should receive.
Obviously 22 years does not seem like enough time to serve when you take a tiny (Caelob was almost 2# when he was born!)5 year old boy and beat him so badly that a piece of drywall was removed from the home because it had Caelob's head imprint and hair in it!

Our question is this, how do we start this letter? What do you suggest in the way of information/feelings to release in this letter, etc? We are greatful that he will have to do "time" but don't feel that "justice for Caelob" is happening.

Please help. Thanks.

If you do not agree with the plea bargain, then call the local print and electronic media and complain. You will be surprised what impact that will have on the judge and prosecuting attorney involved in this case. In all likelihood, the plea bargain will be dropped and the case will go to trial.

--Judge Robert Ruehlman

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I'm very upset about something that is going on in our court system , I live in Elyria, Ohio. We have a judge here in our courts that beleive the death penelty is cruel. So before he starts this certain case against these indivuals, (that may require the death penelty) It is my understand that he wants to change the death penelty he says it is cruel and causes pain to the convicted. I am so beside myself that I didn't know where to turn, So i've come to you. Our Newspaper is the Chronicle Telegram, mabey you can catch some of the articles.

I can't comment on a Judge's personal beliefs. I deal with questions on specific cases.

--Judge Robert Ruehlman

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I wanting to obtain the telephone calls made by the murderer while he was in jail prior to making bond and any other conversation such as visits, etc. Can I obtain these records under the Tennessee Public Records Act? If so, is there a form to complete? The Tennessee Public Records Act is found in T.C.A. § 10-7-101 et seq. For purposes of access to public records, the operative provision is found in T.C.A. § 10-7-503, which states in relevant part: “All state county and municipal records ... shall at all times, during business hours, be open for public inspection by any citizen of Tennessee, and those in charge of such records shall not refuse such right of inspection to any citizen, unless provided by state law.”

The full text of the law can be found online at http://www.tsc.state.tn.us/ and then by clicking on TN Code. “Records” are defined as “all documents, papers, letters, maps, books, photographs, microfilms, electronic data processing files and output, films, sound recordings, or other material, regardless of physical form or characteristics made or received pursuant to law or ordinance or in connection with the transaction of official business of any governmental agency.” T.C.A. § 10-7-301 (6)

Call the County Sheriff, they usually are in charge of the jail. If the sheriff is not in charge, then find what division of county government runs the jail and you can contact them and ask what type of paper work needs to be filed.

--Judge Robert Ruehlman

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Aaron Michael was murdered by his father on 2/13/08 (he was 82 days old). We feel the DA's office has not negoiated in our best interest and in fact accepted a plea deal we were unaware of. After some frustrating conversations we have surpassed our tolerance level and need advice on how (if possible) to vacate the plea deal and bring the this matter back to the table prior to any sentencing. Maybe there is nothing we can do.., We would like someone other than the ADA to tells us that.

If the defendant has already plead, there is nothing that you can do about it.

--Judge Robert Ruehlman

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My daughter was murdered; a double homicide in NY. The investigation is very active and has been ongoing for almost 7 years. Two of the perpetrators have been charged with First Degree Murder along with 13 other charges. We are waiting to go to pre-trials which continuously get postponed as does the trial(s), none to date. The defense attorney has subpoenaed federal agents for testimony/evidence; federal court date 11/5.

My question is...am I entitled to attend this? I could ask the DA, but afraid he will say I do not need to and not get very far. I would prefer to know that I am or am not entitled to attend this court date, before I make a decision. I am not very law savvy.

Also...I am not satisfied with the procedure/process of the investigation; I know that the police department has made enormous mistakes. Where do I begin with holding them liable for their actions. I know there is an internal affairs, but that will not work for me, I really would like to hire a criminal lawyer who is highly recommended, knows his stuff and is not associated with the area, which is going to be hard since the “area” this investigation has gone is quite large.

This is a high profile case. I really appreciate your help.

You can attend.

Don't sue or complain about anyone until the case is over. You might be satisfied with the outcome of the trial.

--Judge Robert Ruehlman

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My husbands daughter was murdered in 2005. We have the fourth trial date set for March 17,2009. The defense attorney is stating that he wants to depose the mother and father of the victim. The parents have absolutely no knowledge,or information about the incident.How is it ok to put two parents through this experience? Is there anything that protects the family of the victim from being victimized a second time. The assistant State Attorney is angry about his intent, but I get the impression that she can't do anything to stop it.

In Ohio this would not be allowed. However, some states have open discovery rules in criminal cases that allow this.
If you are in a state that allows this type of discovery their is not much that you can do.

--Judge Robert Ruehlman

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my daughter is 7 years old in wisconsin and a 15 year old brother in ohio there father was murdered in wisconsin his wife stabbed and killed him and told police she stabbed him and she was not afraid for her life but when i went to the hospital to she him they said i coulndnt because it was a murder we were not married but said i would take his body for burial they never contacted me and gave the body to his wifes sister and they creamated him and his body is by the murderes mother in chicago none of his side of the fammily were asked if they wanted him he had sisters in mi and family in chicago why wernt we notified of a hearing to give the sister in law control because none of my daughter or brother will be able to bury him or have a place to visit can us as mothers of his biologic children do anything about because my daughter cries when i tell here were his body is can we do anything i feel she already to took here fathers life who he was very close to in life now it seems in death to thank you patti and abrianna.

Since you were not married to him, you have no rights in his body. And, your children are minors and thus have no say in where he is buried.

--Judge Robert Ruehlman

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My 20 month old nephew was murdered in 2007...I will give you the shortened version of what happened... He was a daycare, my sister got a phone call saying Joey (my nephew) was at the Hospital and she needed to get there. Upon arriving at the Hospital and following several x-rays and CT scans it was determined that he had suffered a severe skull fracture. The babysitter was eventually charged with first degree murder and child endangerment resulting in death. She spent 2 nights in jail and released on bond. 18 months after Joey died there was finally a plea bargin. She made an Alford plea to the second charge of Child endangerment resulting in death which carries a 50 year max sentence. My question is...now that she has made her plea...will she be able to appeal her decision and if she is able to do this...will we start over at square one and have to go through this whole process again? I don't know if our family will survive going through that again...if someone out there can help answer these questions I would be grateful.

A defendant can appeal a guilty plea but appellate courts rarely overturn those pleas. If it was overturned it would be because the trial court failed to advise the defendant of one of her rights under the Constitution. It could also be reversed if the appellate court found that she did not understand her constitutional rights. If the plea was reversed, it would mean that the entire case would be sent back to be tried.

--Judge Robert Ruehlman

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My daughter was killed in a vehicular homicide (fleeing from police) on November 4, 2007 in Athens, Georgia Almost 2 years later the DA and judge have still not made much progress in getting to a trial. Changes in defendants lawyer, delaying tactics, etc. Judge sets status calls and then removes him from calendar, says he cannot "promise anything" after he sets dates. Yet smoking marijuana cases get moved along!

What recourse do we have in moving this judicial system? Should we petition DA's office? How can POMC help us in this matter. We are very frustrated!

There's not alot that you can do except go to the press. The problem with that approach is that you get the Judge angry at you.

--Judge Robert Ruehlman

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My 3 yr old grandson died in feb. of this year under very suspicious circumstances, the county it happened in is known for corruption, and our family believes it was not an accident and that the sheriff is covering up for the one that may be responsible for his death. we need to know who do we contact to get this case looked into further. also we feel the case was mishandled .can we get things started from another state due to the corruption there?

If the police and prosecutor's office refuse to investigate further, then you must hire an attorney that has either a background in law enforcement or prosecution. That person would know the system well enough to know where to look and who to talk to.

--Judge Robert Ruehlman

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Do you know of any legal reason that the District Attorney would not or could not allow a person from POMC to accompany a parent when he goes to see the case file for his daughter's murder ?
As you saw from our email about our meetings, we are running into walls whatever way we turn, as we seek information. We are not knowledgeable enough of the law to know how to get the information we need. All we know is that something is wrong - wrong enough for the police to send an Assistant Chief, Captain, Lieutenant, Sergeant and Investigator to speak with us on a closed case. That is an impressive presence - So, how can POMC help us with this? WE would value any input you can give, any direction ......any thing.

The prosecutor controls his or her case file but I see no reason why they wouldn't allow a POMC rep to accompany this parent.

--Judge Robert Ruehlman

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Do you know of any legal reason that the District Attorney would not or could not allow a person from POMC to accompany a parent when he goes to see the case file for his daughter's murder ?

As you saw from our email about our meetings, we are running into walls whatever way we turn, as we seek information . We are not knowledgeable enough of the law to know how to get the information we need. All we know is that something is wrong - wrong enough for the police to send an Assistant Chief, Captain, Lieutenant, Sergeant and Investigator to speak with us on a closed case. That is an impressive presence - So, how can POMC help us with this? We would value any input you can give, any direction ......any thing.

The prosecutor controls his or her case file but I see no reason why they wouldn't allow a POMC rep to accompany this parent.

--Judge Robert Ruehlman

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Can you explain a finding of incompetancy to me. My son, Stephen, was murdered on 3/14/10 in Florida by a man with a long history of criminal behavior. He raped a child 6 years ago, was found incompetent to stand trial and somehow was not in any type of secure facility. How can someone be set free with a history of violent behavior, the rape of the child was in South Carolina. The prosecuter told us they reevaluate the person every 6 months and if not competent within 5 years, the charges are dropped. This man was not remanded to any type of facility after that time. Competent or not, he has committed the crime. How could he go free.

If a person is found incompetent they are usually held in a secure mental facility until they can be restored to competency. Many times they are restored with the right combination of psychotropic medications and then they are brought to trial. If a person cannot be brought back to competency, they can be held in a secure mental health facility for many years if the crime carries a long prison penalty. For lesser felonies the law requires that they be released after serving an amount of time that they would have served if they had been convicted.

--Judge Robert Ruehlman

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Thank you for the time given to consider my question. I live in Kauai, the outer most Hawaiian Island. On December 17, 2010 a friend, Aureo A. Moore, was murdered by a defendant, Mr. Vicente Hilario, named in an up coming jury trial. My friend was to testify against this defendant. I worked in these courts for several years. Unfortunately, the Fifth Judicial Circuit on Kauai has proven corrupt, as well as the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney. The island community is small, but the corruption runs deep and is sophisticated. Sadly, this is the truth. These facts have hurt our community a great deal. I am concerned about this murder case.

In the last year there has been some investigations conducted after a female officer of the courts was retaliated by some court administrators and judges, being denied protection when her field duties involved contact with a long standing pimp on the island. This dangerous offender would threaten this female PO several times, (Terroristic Threatening), be arrested and the OPA would refuse to take the cases. Four times the officer of the courts appeared to court on her own, and was denied Temporary Restraining Orders and Orders of Protections. The judges protected the pimp due to a clients list.

This blatant misconduct is an indicator to the degree of corruption on this island in the USA, that is located at the end of the western US. This PO spent 3 years taking this matter to the top where the Lt. Governor seemed to hear her appeals, all the while she was retaliated and endangered. She or her young daughter could have been killed.

A Complaint was brought against the State of HI, Judiciary. Some were trying to silence this probation officer and attempted to intimidate her enough that she would drop this case. This officer of the courts remained in steady contact with the local police department, seeking protection. Finally, the chief court administrator, deputy chief court administrator, and one family court judge would be dismissed. This was unprecedented . Court staff and Judges are being held more accountable by the Director of Courts and Chief Justice.

Unfortunately, corruption remains in these courts, and the OPA has not been investigated yet. The defendant, who has been charged with Murder in the First Degree, Murder in the Second Degree, Retaliating a Witness, Attempting to Intimidate a Witness and Bribery is considered "connected" to some who are corrupt by way of his family ties, the courts and the OPA. Court records point to this likelihood in this dangerous offender repeatedly having felony charges such as firearm charges, burglary and assaultive misconduct charges dismissed. This offender would be involved in a robbery--the murder victim also being the robbery victim. Gun play was involved. There were witnesses to this crime. This case was dismissed with prejudice.

There is concern that my friend would was murdered will not be represented and corruption/racism will veil justice ever being served. Thus far, the family has been given no copies of motions, or any other court documents from the OPA. The prosecuting attorney could not explain why the defendant's attorney missed a conference call, then the PA missed part of this same pre-trial hearing that was taken into judge's chambers, and off the records. A jury trial scheduled for April 25, 2011 has been postponed. According to the victim's family, the PA does not have an answer as to to why the jury trial was postponed. The PA only informed this family the decision was made when the Judge and defendant's attorney were called to the conference call. This attorney for the defendant had "forgotten" about the conference call hearing, and his staff had to locate him.

This decision to postpone the April 25 hearing was decided with only the Judge and defendant's attorney present. The PA was absent. The defendant's attorney would miss a second hearing. This unprofessional conduct by an attorney, too, is of concern. He appears very relaxed as though his behavior is without reprimand. This private attorney was assigned to the defendant by the courts. There have been two of four hearings taken into judge's chambers, rather than kept in the court room and on the records.

Can anything be done to make certain all hearings are on the records, and my friend's family is kept abreast of the progress of the case in which their young son's life was taken? This young man--who was to be a witness--was shot three times in the back and twice in the head when he lay dying. The murder is heinous. Two other individuals were involved and being investigated as accomplices. What rights do the victim's family members have under such circumstances?

We've one token newspaper, The Garden Island news. Kauai is a tourist destination and many of the advertisements are with local resorts, etc., which rely on tourism to maintain business. The newspaper would do no story whatsoever to the female probation officer being denied protection by the courts, endangered. and a Complaint being brought against the judiciary. It appears this newspaper will not do a story bringing to light the corruption in the courts and OPA , and what may be transpiring in this murder case. After 3 years, and this PO's case finally being given a Jury Trial date of May 12, 2011, this woman/mother dropped the case for fear that her family, a witness or juror being retaliated or killed just as my friend was.
We are at a bit of loss out here on this island, in the middle of no where. Thank you for any suggestions to ensure the courts proceed as required and the victim's family is treated properly.

I'd report this to the FBI's Civil Rights Division. If a local government is responsible for the death of a citizen, it's officials can be charged with a violation of that person's civil rights. The sentence can be life in prison or even the death penalty. This is what happened in Mississippi when civil rights workers were murdered.

- Judge Robert Ruehlman

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I live in Celebration, Florida.  It was my son that was murdered on March 29, 2014 in Denmark, SC.  First off, I am appalled at what the press printed in the newspaper the next day.  The story that was printed was told by the 3 felons, as my son was dead, his one friend was in a coma, and the 3rd was in critical care.  How can they print just the thugs side of the story.  It was not a "gun shoot out". 
http://www.wistv.com/story/25109253/1-killed-3-injured-in-bamberg-county-shooting

My son, who was white, made a poor decision to purchase weed from a guy he worked with at  Masonite Doors.  My son worked full time and was in school.  He had his whole life in front of him.  Unlike the 3 black brothers who all were felons, my son never even had a parking ticket or run in with the law.  When they met up on Voorhees Rd to make the transaction, my son and his friends were in the truck. One brother appeared first and put gun in passenger seat where my son was sitting. Then another brother sucker punched my son in the face. The guy with my son seated in the back seat did shoot one of the in the arm. Then Xavier killed my son with a 9mm.  Not sure which brother(s) shot the other 2 passengers in the car, but the driver was shot and remained in a coma for months.  After the driver was shot, they shot the 3rd passenger seated in the back.  The guns that were used to shoot the driver and back seat passenger were not 9mm's.  They then circled around, apparently to make sure they didn't leave anyone alive, and shot Kevin who was seated in the back seat again when they noticed he was still alive.  He played dead after the 2nd shot. However, luckily he did  survive.

Since day one, Xavier Washington admitted to shooting my son, according to Detective Johnson from SLED (South Carolina Law Enforcement). He even followed it up with "but he didn't mean too" .  The detective told myself and my son's dad time and time again that he knew that it was Xavier Washington that murdered my son, but it would hard to prove.  Huh? What is total baffling to me is the fact that all three black guys were felons. They were caught possessing firearm while a crime was being committed, along with weed, and a dead body. Yet NO arrests were made.  They were questioned and released!! I was devastated... How could they be released??This monster who killed my son, was not only a felon, but was incarcerated for crack distribution on 02/06/2012 to serve a five year sentence.  His projected release date is today, Jan. 22, 2015.  He was eligible for parole on April 13, 2013.  So apparently he was let out on parole.  

No one has offered any explanation as to why NO charges have not been brought against these thugs, such as Possession of a Firearm by a convicted felon, or Possession of a gun during the commission of a felony crime, regardless of the murder charge. Yet this animal that took my precious son's life is free to continue to live his thug life.

I was dumbfounded last week when the prosecutor informed me that it looks as if NO charges will be filed! This is absolutely ludicrous.  You mean this Xavier Washington possessing a fire arm and murdering someone where marijuana was involved doesn't constitute a parole violation.  They were questioned and released within hours. This is mind blowing. How can this happen. Truly this is inconceivable.  

I just need some advice as to what to do next.  I was told to hire an attorney, however, as a single mom with another son in college, I cannot afford the $350-550 per hour fees.  Any suggestions or ideas would be greatly appreciated.  Thank you for taking the time to read my story.

You are a good writer and you express your ideas clearly. Therefore, you ought to take your story to the press. The prosecutors and police hate the press and sometimes a complaint like yours might get them to move on the case.

- Judge Robert Ruehlman

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Can a person be charged with wrongful death if she lied to the courts and caused a felon in possession or ammunition’s case to be dismissed. She said the ammunition was hers. Five months later he was arrested and charged with the same thing, felon in possession of ammunition. He made bail and bailed himself out. Four days after he made bail he shot and killed my daughter and injured three others. He went on a shooting rampage through town, was chased by the police and eventually shot and killed. I believe that if she would have never lied that this felon would have been in prison for a while. Your time is greatly appreciated and I thank you.

No. There has to be proximate cause for an action to be brought against someone,

There is not proximate cause here because he is the one who did the actual murder. The fact that her lie resulted in his release is not a legally sufficient connection for there to be proximate cause.

- Judge Robert Ruehlman

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my daughter was murdered on may 5/15/15 it was a double homicide days before her murdered his probation officer issued a warrant for his arrest he had been on the highest probation level he had violated probation several times earlier and then I learned that his warrant was sitting on the judges chamber for several weeks please read the story on the eagle newspaper bryan texas 77801 vanessa Gonzales and Ashley Garcia my name is caroline Contreras 979-693-4619 thank you my question is can I sue the justice system so that this does not happen again this was domestic violence

No. Under these facts your suit would not be successful.

- Judge Robert Ruehlman
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I have two questions

1.       Who has the authoring to close a case
2.       Should the family be notified

Normally, the head of the Homicide Unit makes that decision.

- Judge Robert Ruehlman

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I am wanting to ask if anything can be done to change a plea bargain. My 25 year old daughter was murdered in a very, very brutal way in Hays, Kansas in 2004 and the county attorney agreed to a plea bargain, which is what he ALWAYS does. The boyfriend who murdered my daughter only received 14 years, 4 months in prison for reckless homicide, which includes the time he spent in jail. Now this boyfriend who murdered my daughter gets out of prison in two years! Can anything be done to upgrade or change this to a sentence that fits the crime, such as a life sentence, (off the grid sentencing?) I fought for, and we initially had the charges upgraded from intentional homicide to first degree murder when we had assistance from the attorney general’s office. Then, this attorney from the AG’s office with many years of experience, who originally helped the county attorney, died of cancer so another attorney from the AG’s office with little experience helped us. The county attorney wanted a plea bargain and this is what happened without my family’s input! The county attorney sold us out and there is no justice for my daughter, Lindsay! Can we ask for a reconsideration and a resentencing? The punishment did not at all fit the crime! Can we ask for an upward disposition and show that the judge overlooked the serious nature of the crime? If we can do this, what is the process? Will I need to find some similar cases/case law to show a precedent?  I need some direction on this please. Can you please help me to get some justice for my precious daughter.

I'm sorry but once a plea and finding of guilty is made, a victim cannot change the plea agreement.

- Judge Robert Ruehlman

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My son was murdered in Minnesota in 2002. His killer was sentenced to 96 months and only served 2/3 of sentence, due to MN state law. He was ordered to pay me restitution to compensate for the expenses… I haven’t received anything. Since the murder he has committed another crime (arson) and is in jail again. Do I have ant right for this restitution?

You can sue in Civil Court for money and use the Criminal Judgment Entry ordering restitution as proof.

- Judge Robert Ruehlman

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My son was killed in feb of this year, after 3 months the prosecutor told us he cannot charge the guy that did this to my son because there was not enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt on any of the murder charges. He also would not even charge him with assault at the least. They said the case would remain open. What can i do? My son was 22. The guy claims it was self defense but the investigation was not handled properly from the begining. Can the state police pick this up and reinvestigate? We live in michigan. I just dont know what to do. I want justice for my son. Any help woyld be appreciated.

Hiring an attorney with a prosecutorial background to present your side to the current prosecutor is an approach that can sometimes work.

- Judge Robert Ruehlman

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My son 25 and his best friend also 25 were brutally murdered. Shot to death at our home in the front yard by a neighbor we have never met. This man walked to my house and shit once to entice the boys to go outside. Once outside he shot a total of 32 high velocity gun shots from and AK. After shooting the boys he went back home and told his wife what he had just done. His wife walked over from her house to see the boys dead bodies lying there. She then went home and cleaned the gun safe and put the magazine to the rifle under their bed. They disposed the rifle in lake Whitney. The man has been in custody since it happened on double capital murder and one million dollar bond. The wife was arrested shortly after for tampering with evidence. She got out on $5000 bond. She is still out of jail. I don’t understand how she can be out and about after everything she has done?  Can you explain how that can be?

That's up to the Judge assigned to her case. The only thing you can do is urge the prosecutor to request a higher bond.

- Judge Robert Ruehlman

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