Should Bill have been charged with first degree murder (premeditated killing)?
The prosecution’s case was largely founded on the principle of Ockham’s Razor: that of two possible explanations, murder or suicide, the simplest explanation was the most likely.
To summarise: Bill was infatuated with Chubbie. Bill was cuckolded by his friend Haden. Bill bought a gun and loaded it. The gun shot Haden while Bill was present. Bill forged the suicide notes. Ergo, Bill killed Haden and made it look like a suicide.
But what is the evidence?
- That Bill bought a gun just before he returned to Miami and loaded it. Yet Bill had a sound explanation for the purchase – that he had bought it as a replacement gun for one he had been lent and had been forced to pawn – and he was backed up by the man who lent him the gun (see post 2).
- That Bill threatened Haden in his diary. There are no threats against Haden in the diary, overt or otherwise (see post 3).
- That Bill verbally threatened Haden in Russell’s presence. The state was naïve to think they could trust jailbird witnesses and there is strong evidence that Russell was lying (see post 4).
- That Bill verbally threatened Haden in Tancrel’s presence. Tancrel was clearly lying (see post 5).
- That Bill forged the suicide notes. While this is the case, there is a solid explanation for Bill's doing so (see post 12).
James Carson in his opening address said, ‘In cases of circumstantial evidence, the circumstances depend almost entirely for their efficacy upon the point of view from which you look at the circumstances. If you start out with the belief or with the presumption – which the law makes it your duty to do – that Captain Lancaster is innocent, then each of the circumstances relied upon by the state falls into its place, insofar as it is true and is consistent with the theory of innocence. But if you start out in circumstantial cases from the viewpoint of the prosecution – that is, if you start out believing that a man is guilty – then every circumstance you see merely tends to confirm you in that conviction which you already have.’
The above evidence suggests that once the prosecutors knew that Bill had forged the suicide notes, their belief that he was guilty allowed them to ignore the true reason for his gun purchase, to see threats in the diary that weren’t there, and to accept the word of liars and criminals.
Bill should not have been charged with first degree murder. The prosecution should have known that their evidence was not solid enough to withstand the probing of a good defence lawyer. Indeed, to have charged Bill with first degree murder, particularly when the electric chair was the punishment, seems to smack of a miscarriage of justice.