Bob Bianchi appeared on Fox News Happening Now with co-guest Lis Wiehl and host Jenna Lee. Discussed were 2 murder cases of young college women in Virginia.
The defendant, Jesse Matthew Jr., is currently serving a life sentence for the attempted murder and rape of another young woman. After that life sentence, police linked Jesse Matthew Jr. to the murder of the 2 other women through compelling evidence.
The prosecution sought the death penalty for the new murders, but just this week, agreed to dismiss the death penalty cases and give the defendant additional life sentences in exchange for his plea of guilty to the murders.
As a former NJ Prosecutor and now NJ criminal defense attorney, this plea makes no sense. Under Virginia law, even if the jury found him guilty of the murders but ultimately did not give the death penalty the sentence would be for life in prison under their laws. So, why not try the case as there is nothing to lose.
And, even if the jury were to find the defendant not guilty of committing the murders altogether (unlikely given the quality of the evidence in this case), there is no harm as he is already serving a life sentence. In other words, there was nothing for the prosecution to lose by trying these heinous cases. Only the defendant benefited from this plea deal.
Plea bargaining is a common practice in the criminal justice system. But in cases like murder, prosecutors are less likely to offer favorable pleas. So, this deal makes no sense from a prosecutorial standpoint. Practically, he “got the 2 murders for free” as we would say in the profession.
But the decision to offer a plea bargain to spare this defendant’s life presents the problem with death penalty cases in general, and why I do not support these laws after 26 years of practice. There is such a disparity on who gets charged with death penalty cases, and who gets executed, to make the death penalty system random and undisciplined. To me, this defendant should be the perfect candidate for a death penalty charge. He attempted to murder and raped 1 woman for which he is currently serving a life sentence. He is then charged with the killing 2 other innocent woman after sexually assaulting and torturing them.
People with cases that were far less serious have been convicted and executed under our death penalty laws. This inconsistency as to who gets death, and who does not, is so wildly askew to make the ultimate punishment too random to be a just punishment. And, this cases proves that exact point.
Check out this interesting debate with Lis and Jenna and let me know your thoughts.
© 2016 Robert (Bob) Bianchi, Esq.