Aiding and Abetting Does Not Require a Conviction for the Principal Actor

Talk about crappy luck…. So imagine you are a poor schmuck, you happen to believe strongly in the Second Amendment’s guarantee of a personal right to a firearm, and you have buddies who do stupid things. Maybe it’s not such a good idea to loan out your heater….

A young man charged with aiding and abetting first degree murder – a count that would necessitate a life sentence, potentially, if a trial went the wrong way – chose to cut his losses. He pled guilty to Aiding an Offender After the Fact and received 74 months in prison for his troubles. Part of his plea deal – a really nasty part – was that he had to testify against his friend in the murder trial. But, cutting his losses turned out to be a disastrous decision when the trial for the principal actor ended with an acquittal. The result:the alleged shooter walked, while our friend is serving significant time for aiding and abetting an incident that didn’t lead to a conviction.

It might be the case that this nasty interlude may be attributed to the quality of the lawyers who defended each man, or even which judicial officer presided over the two cases, or even which prosecutor handled the cases (likely the same one, but not automatically). Even the most biased State-supporter would have to admit there is a bit of unfairness when a man charged with murder goes home, but the fellow who aided him–knowingly, recklessly, or neither–sits in prison for a minimum of four years; however, the cases on point didn’t compel a better result for our man. Citing United States Supreme Court case law, this result does “no more than manifest the simple, if discomforting, reality that different juries may reach different results under any criminal statute. That is one of the consequences we accept under our jury system. While symmetry of results may be intellectually satisfying, it is not required.” So, while it is unfair the principal actor gets to walk, this is the reality of the criminal justice system.

The takeaway? Be extraordinarily careful who you hire to represent you if you are charged with serious offenses. Even an apparently good deal may turn out to be disastrously unwise, and every single human with a working cerebellum should take great care before becoming a witness for the government.