Can They Prove Murder Without a Body?

I was interviewed by reporter Elizabeth Erwin with ABC 15 News about the Jerice Hunter murder trial and the impact of the police never finding the body of Jhessye Shockley.

Murder Without A Body?

While the body in a murder trial is an important piece of evidence, it is not essential.  A prosecutor can still prove murder with circumstantial evidence.  Contrary to popular belief, circumstantial evidence is permitted to be used in court.  It is the jury’s job to decide whether the circumstantial evidence adds up to proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

Prosecutor’s have managed to get guilty verdicts in a murder case where they did not have a body.  It is more difficult, though.  The body provides a lot of evidence including proving that the alleged victim is actually dead, manner of death, and an approximate time of death.  This evidence allows the police to narrow down possible suspects and scrutinize alibis.

Prosecutor’s offices feel tremendous public pressure to prosecute murder cases.  At some point, they will come to the conclusion that it is unlikely they will ever recover a body and a decision is made as to whether to prosecute the case without this key piece of evidence.

The Casey Anthony case is a perfect example of a case where a prosecutor’s office moved forward on charge of murder without a body.  There was tremendous pressure to solve the murder.  The prosecutors had concluded that recovering a body was unlikely and decided to move forward with their case.  They ultimately lost and Casey Anthony was found not guilty.

Even if new evidence is later found, Casey Anthony cannot be retried for the murder of her daughter Caylee.  This would be double jeopardy.

Not having a body opens the door to numerous defenses including the defense the person is not even dead.  This defense is used almost every time a murder is prosecuted without a body.

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Phoenix Criminal Attorney

Russ Richelsoph is a Phoenix Criminal Lawyer who practices in all Phoenix court including Phoenix Municipal Court, Maricopa County Superior Court, and all Phoenix justice courts.  When you are charged with a crime, Russ Richelsoph is one of the best Phoenix Criminal Attorneys to have on your side.  If you need help with a criminal case, call Phoenix Criminal Defense Lawyer Russ Richelsoph.

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