Misdemeanor murder
Misdemeanor murder is a slang
Slang is the use of informal words and expressions that are not considered standard in the speaker's language or dialect but are considered more acceptable when used socially. Slang is often to be found in areas of the lexicon that refer to things considered taboo...

 term used to describe a situation in which a person is suspected of murder
Murder is the unlawful killing, with malice aforethought, of another human being, and generally this state of mind distinguishes murder from other forms of unlawful homicide...

, but there is not enough evidence to convict the suspect of murder in court. The suspect is then either released without charges
An indictment , in the common-law legal system, is a formal accusation that a person has committed a crime. In jurisdictions that maintain the concept of felonies, the serious criminal offence is a felony; jurisdictions that lack the concept of felonies often use that of an indictable offence—an...

 or the suspect receives a sentence
Sentence (law)
In law, a sentence forms the final explicit act of a judge-ruled process, and also the symbolic principal act connected to his function. The sentence can generally involve a decree of imprisonment, a fine and/or other punishments against a defendant convicted of a crime...

 that is similar to a sentence given to a person charged with a misdemeanor
A misdemeanor is a "lesser" criminal act in many common law legal systems. Misdemeanors are generally punished much less severely than felonies, but theoretically more so than administrative infractions and regulatory offences...



In a 2001 article, the St. Petersburg Times
St. Petersburg Times
The St. Petersburg Times is a United States newspaper. It is one of two major publications serving the Tampa Bay Area, the other being The Tampa Tribune, which the Times tops in both circulation and readership. Based in St...

reported a drifter convicted of murder fifteen years ago had his conviction overturned. The original sentence was based on circumstantial evidence
Circumstantial evidence
Circumstantial evidence is evidence in which an inference is required to connect it to a conclusion of fact, like a fingerprint at the scene of a crime...

. The reporter refers to the original case as the kind lawyers call a "misdemeanor murder" due to lack of sympathy for the victim who was a teen-age crack addict and prostitute. Although in this case the suspect was imprisoned based on circumstantial evidence and false testimony.


New Orleans is often accused of institutionalized "misdemeanor murder". Article 701 of the criminal code requires the state to release a defendant who has not been charged with a crime after 60 days. Before Hurricane Katrina
Hurricane Katrina
Hurricane Katrina of the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season was a powerful Atlantic hurricane. It is the costliest natural disaster, as well as one of the five deadliest hurricanes, in the history of the United States. Among recorded Atlantic hurricanes, it was the sixth strongest overall...

 a few hundred people per year were released under article 701. In 2006, after Katrina, there were over 3,000 article 701 releases although the population had dropped from around 500,000 to around 250,000. Causes include inexperienced prosecutors, inexperienced police officers, poor processing procedures, poor tracking procedures, incomplete reports, missing evidence and an undermanned police force.
New Orleans also has a problem with witnesses that go missing before trial and a crime lab that was destroyed during Katrina and has yet to be repaired. All of this results in an effective sentence of 60 days for those suspected of murder.


In East Texas
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

, criminal defense attorney, Percy Foreman
Percy Foreman
Percy Eugene Foreman was a criminal defense attorney from Houston, Texas. Foreman was born near Bold Springs, Texas, and moved to Livingston, Texas when he was six years old. He was the son of William P. Foreman, a former sheriff of Polk County, Texas...

 (1902-1988) made a career out of "defending thieves, murderers, and wayward spouses". He had an impressive record among those charged with committing capital offenses, which he called "misdemeanor murder". Out of nearly 1,500 men and women facing the death sentence, he lost only one to execution. A Texas legislator once said, "Nobody who has the money to hire Percy Foreman has any real fear of the death penalty."

The Dallas Morning News found that at least 120 times from 2000 through 2006 probation was given instead of a sentence of murder. In Dallas County
Dallas County, Texas
As of the census of 2000, there were 2,218,899 people, 807,621 households, and 533,837 families residing in the county. The population density was 2,523 people per square mile . There were 854,119 housing units at an average density of 971/sq mi...

 twice as many murderers were put on probation
Probation literally means testing of behaviour or abilities. In a legal sense, an offender on probation is ordered to follow certain conditions set forth by the court, often under the supervision of a probation officer...

 as were sent to death row
Death row
Death row signifies the place, often a section of a prison, that houses individuals awaiting execution. The term is also used figuratively to describe the state of awaiting execution , even in places where no special facility or separate unit for condemned inmates exists.After individuals are found...

. Forty-seven people or nine percent in the county were placed on probation instead of in prison for murder. Insiders speak of "misdemeanor murders" where you can commit murder without it appearing on your record. Most of these murder-probations are given to minorities who murder minorities, especially when the victim had engaged in illegal or immoral activity and when the victim has no relatives or friends. Defense lawyer
A lawyer, according to Black's Law Dictionary, is "a person learned in the law; as an attorney, counsel or solicitor; a person who is practicing law." Law is the system of rules of conduct established by the sovereign government of a society to correct wrongs, maintain the stability of political...

s are able to reduce sympathy for the victim. If the defense lawyer can then induce sympathy for the defendant
A defendant or defender is any party who is required to answer the complaint of a plaintiff or pursuer in a civil lawsuit before a court, or any party who has been formally charged or accused of violating a criminal statute...

, a plea bargain will result. This process is aided by the jury
A jury is a sworn body of people convened to render an impartial verdict officially submitted to them by a court, or to set a penalty or judgment. Modern juries tend to be found in courts to ascertain the guilt, or lack thereof, in a crime. In Anglophone jurisdictions, the verdict may be guilty,...

system used in Texas, as juries can be easier to persuade than judges. Prosecutors cooperate in order to reduce caseload, knowing the suspects will most likely violate probation making them easier to prosecute later.

Legal cases using "misdemeanor murder"

External links

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