Monday, April 6, 2015

Forensic Evidence Doesn’t Match Story. Result: Homicide Charges

from ssgmarkcr

 I came upon this while dropping by the site and thought it would be a good example of both the capabilities of forensic science and also the time spans involved in processing it.  Here is the site,

"Two years ago, in May of 2013, James George Stiffler shot a man who was burglarizing his home in Lewis and Clark County, Montana. The burglar, Henry Tomas Johnson of Helena, managed to make it to his car, but died before being able to leave the property. The case illustrates the ability of forensic science to determine details of what happened."
"But investigators were unable to find any blood in the house, or a bullet or bullet holes, even though the bullet had exited Johnson’s body. They did find a 9 mm bullet outside with DNA that matched Johnson. The bullet location was consistent with a shot fired by Stiffler while inside the house, at Johnson as he was exiting a window, and indicated a different direction of fire than what Stiffler had stated."

    The author of this first article made some very good points on effective alternatives,

"Stiffler made three mistakes:

(1) He did not block or disable the criminal’s car to prevent escape.

(2) Bigger mistake: He entered the house instead of letting the police do it.

(3) Biggest mistake of all: He lied to the police.

However, when a home intruder is “trying to escape,” he may be running to get a weapon. In that respect the murder charge looks bogus to me."

While the Ammoland gives an overview of the case, I would encourage everyone to go to the original loacal news article because it gives IMHO an excellent description of how the forensic evidence helped them arrive at the truth, but also how law enforcement checks a witness statement against what the physical evidence tells them.


    And as the Ammoland article mentions, there is still an opportunity to use a Castle Doctrine defense, though it might be a hard sell to a jury in light of his telling quite the story to police.  In fact, I wonder if there are any accompanying obstruction charges that havn't been mentioned.

    This is also a wonderful example of a reporter going the extra mile to write a good story instead of just puking out a slightly rewritten version of a police press release. 

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