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Court asked to throw out manslaughter case over police recording

For most people the concept of law is probably quite simple. There are behaviors that are deemed illegal and there are laws on the books that spell out what they are. Violators of the laws get charged with the crime by the government and, if they're found guilty, they are punished. That, however, is a simplistic take on the subject and has a way of leading people to draw dangerous conclusions.

The law is as much about process as it is about enforcing behaviors. And the police and prosecutors are as much bound by the rules of due process as citizens are expected to follow the law. When due process is not followed, there is every reason to seek to have the legal process short circuited. It is the right of an individual to be presumed innocent and it is the obligation of the courts to see that due process is adhered to.

We are prompted to make this observation by news regarding a violent crime case out of a neighbor state of Illinois. The story in the Chicago Sun-Times suggests that prosecutors and police may have overstepped the legal bounds in connection with the questioning of a man they later charged with manslaughter. As a result, the defense is seeking to have the case thrown out.

According to the story, the suspect was being interviewed in December 2012 about the shooting death of his wife. He had two attorneys present with him during the session. Prosecutors and police spoke with the man for more than an hour and records show that a video camera and microphone were recording the whole time -- even during one period of time when authorities took a break and left the room.

During that time, according to a court motion, the man and his attorneys talked about trial strategy. Eventually, the defendant was charged with voluntary manslaughter in his wife's death.

The claim being made by the defense in seeking to have the case thrown out is that attorney-client privilege was breached by the recording. Prosecutors deny the claim. A decision in the matter is still pending.

Any state felony charge is serious, but violent crime charges are particularly grave. They deserve the most robust defense possible to ensure that rights of the defendant are protected.

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Darryl A. Goldberg
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