The Slate.com article starts out, “There is a right way and a wrong way to poison your husband, at least if your primary goal is to get away with it.”
Our Birmingham homicide defense attorneys would of course interject that poisoning anyone is a horrible idea best abandoned immediately.
However, the bigger point of the story, conveying the importance of choosing your confidants wisely, is a good one. We have seen far too many criminal cases skewed in favor of the state because defendants could not or would not keep quiet about the actions of which they were accused.
This involves not just statements made to investigators, but also to co-workers, acquaintances, lovers, cell mates and even family members and close friends. It’s especially important to keep in mind if you’ve already been incarcerated and are awaiting trial, as your interactions will be closely monitored and possibly recorded at every turn.
Such statements can create difficult hurdles for your defense to overcome, giving your lawyer less leverage when it comes to suppressing evidence or negotiating a favorable plea deal.
In the case referenced by the Slate.com writer, a New Jersey woman, a research chemist, was recently convicted of homicide for allegedly poisoning her husband by feeding him a heavy toxic metal that is slow-acting, odorless and tasteless. In this regard, the writer says the defendant pursued her goal “the right way.”
However, when the writer refers to”the wrong way,” she wasn’t talking about the method. Rather she was referencing prior statements made by the defendant.
According to courtroom testimony, two years before the victim died as a result of the poisoning, his wife flat-out told him she would poison him if he ever divorced her. This statement was made not just to him, but to other family members as well.
Two years later, on the day the divorce was to become final, the husband rushed himself to the hospital with severe stomach pains. He told hospital staffers he feared his wife had poisoned him. Two days after that, he fell into a coma and died.
It was nearly two weeks before doctors confirmed that he died after ingesting a high dose of the chemical, which the wife is alleged to have obtained from her work.
The writer notes that it was the chemist’s own words to family members, who later testified against her in court, that sealed her fate.
You should never assume that even your most beloved and trusted would never betray you. For one thing, the law usually won’t protect them from being forced to testify or face jail time themselves.
In most states, only husbands and wives share the privilege of not being forced to testify against one another. There are a few states that shield minor children from being forced to testify against parents and even fewer that shield parents from being forced to testify against their kids.
For the most part, however, the state can jail almost anyone who refuses to testify in response to a subpoena. This can be an incredibly powerful tool, not to be underestimated.
Prosecutors may also move to manipulate your cell mates or acquaintances by offering either a reduction in sentencing for their cooperation or a threat to draw them into your case if they don’t.
The bottom line is that by discussing your actions and your case only with your lawyer, you may not only be protecting yourself, but those around you as well. They can’t attest to conversations that were never had.