Felony murder conviction reversed. The State went out on a limb and charged defendant with a felony murder predicated on intimidation. The real risk was relying on, what has to be, this year's “worst State's witness.”
Generally, prosecutors hate giving out deals.
Why would they ever do it?
Factors Influencing Decision to Flip
In my experience, I believe I have seen three major factors that influence a State's Attorney's office to flip a bad guy.
I'm talking about the decision to offer a deal to an accomplice to a crime in exchange for their testimony against the other accomplices.
Here are the three factors I believe go into that decision:
- Strength of the Case Against All Defendants
- Amount of Corroborating Evidence Supporting The Flipper
- Degree of Culpability of the Flipper
Strength of the Case
Everything begins here.
If the State feels they have a strong case against everyone involved in a crime, there will be no deals.
If they can prove the case against everyone then there is absolutely no reason to start giving deals out. State's Attorney's don't get re-elected by rating the best deals they have cut.
Before any agreements are made, the prosecutor also analyzes what kind of witness the person being considered for a deal will actually make.
These types of witnesses are extremely vulnerable to credibility attacks.
The only real way to survive these attacks is to place an iron shield of credibility around the witness. This comes in the form of independent corroborating evidence.
Degree of Culpability
All things being equal between codefendants, a prosecutor will more often than not cut the deal with the guy who seems less blameworthy.
This is not the same as less culpable or less accountable.
This is just a nonlegal gut check on giving the deal to the guy that did the least worst thing.
You know, this kind of stuff:
- In a home invasion, the guy who tied the victim up trumps the guy who shot them.
- In a gang rape, the guy who held the victim down trumps the guy who penetrated.
- In a robbery, the look-out trumps the guy who went in with a mask and gun.
People v. Casciaro
No doubt, in People v. Casciaro, 2015 IL App (2d) 131291, the strength of the case against all the suspects was thin.
This, combined with the high profile status of the case (which involved the disappearance of a young victim) definitely pushed the state into cutting a deal with the devel to shore up a conviction against someone else.
However, the Second District Appellate court did a great job of reminding us of the huge risks the State takes again when they depend (entirely) on the word of someone concerned with their own freedom.
Listen to podcast Episode 096, to see what can happen when the State proceeds to trial relying on the uncorroborated testimony of a person who is looking for favors.