By David J. Bruno, Esq.
On March 13, 2017, I appeared on HLN’s Primetime Justice with Ashleigh Banfield with host, Jean Casarez, and CNN legal analyst, Joey Jackson. Together, we provided legal analysis of the War Machine attempted murder trial and the sentencing of Jordan McClanahan, who was found guilty of first- degree murder and mutilation of a dead body last month.
First, we discussed the recent testimony of Christy Mack, the alleged victim in the attempted murder case against the MMA fighter, War Machine. Mack is an adult film star and the Defense have been questioning her as if she asked for the beating because of her exotic sexual habits. Joey Jackson and I agreed that the Defense is making a mistake by trying to attack the character victim. As Joey Jackson suggested, the defense would be better served by focusing on the passion provocation aspect of the Defendant’s actions (he walked in on her and another man), which could negate the purposeful or intentional mental state requirement for the attempted murder or aggravated assaults. I also commented that the Defense was making a mistake by attacking the character of the victim instead of focusing on the top charge and defeating the attempted murder.
As a former prosecutor, I know that the attempted murder charge is one of the most difficult to prove. The best defense is available in every case… if the defendant wanted to kill the victim, why didn’t he do it?
Additionally, we discussed the sentencing of Jordan McClanahan who was convicted of murder and sentenced to life without parole. At the sentencing hearing earlier today, the victim’s mother told the Defendant to “Rot in hell.” Facing who she called the monster who took away her baby, the mother of 21-year-old Jessica White said that “Being in the same room and breathing the same air as you makes me sick.”
McClanahan admitted last April to strangling his long-time friend Jessica White with a belt, having sex with her dead body, and stuffing her into an attic afterward.
In the appearance, I commented that the case reminded me of a brutal murder I prosecuted as a Morris County homicide prosecutor. Jonathan and James Zarate were brothers who were convicted of murdering their 16-year old neighbor in Randolph, New Jersey. In that case, the Zarate brothers lured the victim into their basement, suffocated her, and stabbed her to death. Thereafter, they dismembered her body and placed it into a camping trunk they hid in their father’s Jeep, which was parked in the driveway. The following day, the brother’s drove the Jeep with into Bergen County and tried throwing the body off a bridge in Secaucus. Two Secaucus police officers were driving by at the time and stopped the brothers from dumping the body.
Like Jordan McClanahan, the Zarate brothers were each found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison.