The death of a 40-year-old man has led to the arrest of both his 28-year-old cousin, for murder, and his 48-year-old aunt, for hindering prosecution.
Our Birmingham criminal defense attorneys want to focus for once here on the lesser alleged crime. This is a situation in which trying to protect your family members or loved ones could result in severe consequences.
However, in cases where law enforcement officials are investigating either murder or a felony rated either Class A or Class B, the act of "hindering prosecution" in the first-degree in itself is considered a Class C felony.
Hindering prosecution can be defined in a number of ways. It it is usually referring to an active effort to aid in the avoidance of apprehension of the concealment of information.
Specifically, Code of Alabama Section 13A-10-42 defines hindering prosecution or apprehension as providing criminal assistance to another person. This can be done by either:
- Harboring or concealing someone.
- Warning the suspect of impending apprehension or discovery. The exception would be if that warning was given in effort to bring another person in compliance with the law. (In other words, to encourage him or her to surrender to authorities.)
- Providing the suspect with means to avoid apprehension or detection. These means might include money, weapons, transportation or a disguise.
- Suppressing, by an act of concealment, destruction or alteration, any physical evidence that could aid in the discovery or apprehension of such person.
In this case, the woman's son had already been charged with murder back in January, days after he reportedly "discovered" the body of his cousin, who had been fatally shot on Shady Grove Road.
According to news report, this was Jefferson County's first homicide victim of 2013.
The victim's 28-year-old cousin would later tell police that he had gone out looking for his cousin at the behest of his aunt, the victim's mother. The victim had not been reported missing, although two days earlier, his vehicle was discovered burned along the side of the road.
When the cousin set out to search for his cousin, he returned to the site of that vehicle and reportedly discovered him a mere two dozen feet from the road.
Detectives began to suspect the young man as having some involvement in his older cousin's death after noting a number of inconsistencies in his account of how the cousin was found. He was arrested and charged with murder and first-degree theft of property, though he continues to maintain he had nothing to do with his cousin's death.
The police believe that the younger man stole his cousin's vehicle to burn it as a means to conceal the killing.
The victim had been living in his vehicle a short distance from where his body was found.
Authorities said that while they aren't yet ready to reveal a motive, the older cousin had filed a police report against his younger cousin about a week earlier over an alleged assault and theft of video game equipment.
In the course of the ongoing investigation, authorities say they have been led to believe that the suspect's mother drove her son to retrieve the victim's truck after the murder. The truck was then subsequently burned. The mother was then called to come and pick him up.
Authorities say it's clear she had information that would have aided in the investigation and "she chose to withhold it."
Whether this will be enough to make the felony charge stick is unclear. We don't know what evidence police have to suggest the mother had any idea what her son was doing that day when she drove him near to the location or when she picked him up. There is no evidence at this point that he told her anything.
Our hypothesis is that authorities are attempting to use this charge as a way to strong-arm a mother into testifying against her son.
Contact Birmingham Criminal Defense Attorney Steven Eversole at (866) 831-5292.
Jefferson County mother charged with hindering prosecution in nephew's slaying,June 19, 2013, By Carol Robinson, Al.com