A former model who was convicted last year of trying to hire a hit man has been overturned. The woman was sentenced to seven years in prison for allegedly trying to have her husband's ex-wife murdered in what seems to have been a custody dispute. The hit man she tried to hire was actually an informant, and she paid him $175.
An appellate court in Ohio has just overturned her conviction because it was based on a flawed indictment. Under the law of that state, in order for someone to be properly charged with conspiracy to commit aggravated murder, the indictment has to include a specific, "overt act" taken as a step toward that murder. In her case, the prosecutors failed to include that element of the crime.
The appellate judge also suggested that the woman was the victim of ineffective counsel because he didn't notice the error. Since in any criminal case, prosecutors have to prove every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt, it should have been apparent from the beginning that one element was missing altogether.
Your constitutional rights are not a technicality
"She's not innocent. She's getting off on a technicality," said the intended victim of the alleged murder-for-hire plot.
It may be true that the former model is not innocent. She may have committed a crime -- even the crime she is accused of. We simply cannot know, because the jury was allowed to make an assumption about a fundamental part of the case.
A prosecutor's failure to follow the law when charging someone is not a mere technicality. It is a violation of the defendant's basic right to understand and confront the charges being brought against them. This is not as if someone forgot to check the right box or to use a comma correctly. This is due process of law, and it is what makes our system work.
After all, our justice system isn't supposed to be about getting a conviction in every case. It's supposed to be about getting a just result.