The term complicity is common in criminal courts, and it mainly focuses on the act of encouraging or helping another person to commit a crime. In some cases, the act is called abetting. The one who assists the other to execute a crime is the one denoted as a co-conspirator. The accomplice becomes guilty of the crime committed, following the fact that he or she facilitates the crime to be committed.
The accomplice may not directly partake in the commission of a crime, but his or her actions may assist the primary culprit to commit the said crime. Therefore, both the accomplice and the one who committed the crime carry the same degree of punishment and guilt (the United States, 2013).
The penalties involved may still be the same for the two. In most cases, the two may be given the same prison sentence, if found guilty. The law does not consider that one of them was indirectly involved in the commission of the crime. However, it is the prosecutor's central duty to convince the judge that the accomplice voluntarily and intentionally assisted in committing the said crime.
On the other hand, the defense team should have a strong argument to convince the judge(s) that the accomplice was unintentionally and involuntarily involved in the crime committed. In some advanced instances, one becomes an accomplice if he or she had a chance of preventing a crime but failed to do so.
In the criminal courts, the accomplice is always a secondary party. In legal terms, it is said that the accomplice abets, aids procure, or counsels someone else to commit murder. In other words, the accomplice is not a principal murderer. The principle of complicity applies mainly in crimes regarding theft, violence, murder, public order, or fraud. The court must realize that a joint enterprise can either be pre-planned or not. The joint murder may occur spontaneously without earlier planning.
For example, there may be two people named A and B. In this respect, A becomes the principal offender by committing murder with the help of B. Individual B is not present when A commits the murder, but he makes a prior arrangement by leaving the door to the warehouse unlocked. The act of leaving the door open facilitates A to access the warehouse easily. Individual A is, therefore, able to access the warehouse, and some valuable items are stolen; the watchman is killed. In this regard, both A and B are liable for the offense. While A is liable as a principal offender, B is liable as a secondary offender (Gerstenfeld, 2010).
In a court of law, both the defense and the prosecutor must argue out their cases prudently. The prosecution should be able to illustrate that the accomplice was voluntarily and intentionally involved in the commission of the crime. It must show that the secondary party and the principal offender had a prior arrangement that facilitated the murder. The defense may argue that person B unintentionally left the door to the warehouse open (Gerstenfeld, 2010). It may also argue that the principal offender may have had a master key that can open all the door locks.
In other instances, the crime may have been committed through the medium of a secondary party, such as a child who is an innocent agent. A person who is not in a position to facilitate crime is not criminally responsible. Therefore, the defense and the prosecutor must be able to show the connection between the secondary and the principal offenders.
The main emphasis is on the intention of the suspected accomplice. The actual motive should be thoroughly analyzed to ascertain if his or her actions were voluntary or intentional. In this case, the act that facilitated the crime is directly connected to the principal offender, and then the accomplice becomes equally liable to have committed a crime (Gerstenfeld, 2010).
In some other instances, an accomplice may not be executed based on the nature of complicity. For example, if persons A and B intend to commit murder, the principle of complicity applies where the two collaborate until the last minute (Murton & Hyams, 2011).
Therefore, there is a possibility for one of the two parties to withdraw from the joint enterprise. However, the withdrawal is only regarded as valid if it happens before the actual murder takes place. The collected evidence should be valid enough to illustrate that person B withdrew from the joint enterprise before the commission of the crime.
However, there are other elements of withdrawal and association that may be considered. In this regard, certain elements of the inchoate offense may be applied where person B may be found guilty of an attempt or conspiracy. The withdrawal of person B depends on degree and facts. The jury has to consider and relate all the described circumstances, so as to determine the innocence of the accomplice.
The jury has to critically assess the nature of the encouragement and assistance of the said murder. The jury assesses the magnitude of assistance that may have been given to the principal offender before the withdrawal of person B. Additionally, the jury considers the magnitude of the crime committed by the time of withdrawal. The factors that may have facilitated withdrawal are also analyzed. In a situation where the accomplice withdraws without facilitating the occurrence of a crime, he or she is not executed.
The encouragement or assistance accorded by an accomplice may also be disregarded if it is distanced in place, time, or circumstances. For an individual to be considered an accomplice, there must be assistance between the principal offender and the suspected accomplice. Distance in terms of place, time, or circumstances makes complicity invalid. Therefore, the jury has to be keen, so as to relate all the above-mentioned instances (Murton & Hyams, 2011).
The evidence should clearly show that the accomplice participated in the murder. The participation may be in terms of conduct or words which assist the commission of the crime. The said conduct or words should have helped the principal offender with foresight or knowledge that made it possible to commit the murder. If the evidence does not show any of the above instances, then the accomplice cannot be executed.
Additionally, most of the evidence that is based on the presence does not make one an accomplice. In this regard, mere accidental presence does not justify that one is an accomplice. Passers-by sometimes witness crime scenes without any participation in the crime. A conclusion is not, therefore, drawn based on the presence at the crime scene (Murton & Hyams, 2011).
Moreover, any association with the offender does not make one an accomplice. One may accidentally associate with an offender in talking or giving direction without any knowledge of the intended crime. For example, a principal offender may consult an innocent client at a bank before committing a bank robbery. In such a situation, the person who is accidentally consulted may have assisted the offender by giving direction but does not become an accomplice.
Finally, an accomplice cannot be executed by being a member of a gang. In an offense, all members of a gang may not partake in the crime. Therefore, a member of a group that commits a crime does not directly become an accomplice. There should be enough evidence connecting the individual with the group and, finally, with the crime. Therefore, the prosecutor must be able to connect the presence at a crime scene, association with an offender, and membership to a gang with encouragement and assistance.
A close analysis of the death penalty issue reveals it has to apply only to the principal offenders who commit a crime. However, the death penalty does not apply if one does not kill, intend to kill, or attempt to kill. For accomplices, the death penalty should only apply if they actively participate in the killing. It also applies if there is a reckless disregard for human life. Therefore, any other instance for accomplices should be thoroughly examined, especially where the accomplice was not directly linked to the killing (Melville, 2010).
A close examination of Jeffery Lee Wood's case reveals various issues that should be considered by judges before reaching for the death penalty. To begin with, Jeffery Lee Wood was not the principal offender of the murder. Additionally, Jeffery did not attempt to kill.
Finally, there is no evidence that Jeffery intended to kill. The only evidence available is that Jeffery was an active participant in the robbery. In actual terms, he was a principal culprit in the robbery crime and an indirect accomplice in the murder crime. Therefore, there is no solid evidence showing disregard for human life. There is, therefore, no evidence linking Jeffery with the murder crime (Murton & Hyams, 2011).
Jeffery Lee Wood was outside the station when Daniel Reneau killed Kris Lee. The court should, therefore, consider an appeal given that Jeffery Wood was not an active accomplice to the murder crime. It is possible that Jeffery Wood would have prevented the murder if he were physically present when the actual murder occurred (Banks, 2012). There is enough evidence that Jeffery neither encouraged nor assisted the commission of the crime. Jeffery did not also show any intention of killing.
The central argument is that the gang had strategically planned the crime a few days ago. However, the appeal can argue that the plan was to steal but not to kill. Though the gang had been involved in other crimes, the current murder crime was committed by one individual but not all of them. The law provides that any individual who belongs to a gang cannot be concluded to be an accomplice.
Jaffrey Wood should be executed for other crimes rather than murder. For example, he is a principal offender in a robbery with a violent crime. He should be executed for that. Therefore, it is clear that Jeffrey was not physically present when Kris Lee was killed, and his behavior does not show any intention to kill him.
The case also brings out that Jeffrey Wood only gun pointed, following an order from Daniel Reneau. It is also clear that Wood stole the surveillance video after noticing that Reneau had killed the clerk. Therefore, it is likely that Wood was not aware of Daniel's intention to kill. There is, therefore, no evidence to link Wood with the killing (Melville, 2010).
Finally, Wood was reported to have a mental illness. There is, therefore, a likelihood that Jeffrey Wood was continuously manipulated by his friends to commit crimes. The judges should, henceforth, consider Wood not just an indirect accomplice but also as a mentally unsound criminal.
The execution should, therefore, be based on robbery and not on murder. Daniel Reneau should be the only principal offender of the death crime since he shot the clerk alone. Indeed, Daniel should be executed for two crimes, namely, robbery and murder. For the rest, they should face robbery execution.
Death Penalty in Texas State
Over the years, Texas State has been very strict on matters regarding crime and public security. In this regard, judges are very strict on all crimes relating to murder and robbery with violence. One of the penalties that have been endorsed by the state is the death penalty. The penalty has received full endorsement by both the public and the state. It is, therefore, not accidental that Texas is leading in matters related to the death penalty (Murton & Hyams, 2011).
To begin with, the Texas government feels obliged to fight crime in the state. One of the main mechanisms adopted by the state is the use of the judiciary in the execution of culprits. The government holds that strict and timely execution of the offenders would play a significant role in reducing crime. The execution is not only strict to the principal offenders but to the accomplices.
Therefore, the government has been encouraging the citizens to be law-abiding, so as to make Texas State a peaceful state to be emulated by the other states. The courts in Texas have been very significant in reducing crime. Proper arrest, investigation, and execution are applied, and the law applies equally to all, depending on the magnitude of the crime. For serious crimes such as murder, the courts have not relented in passing death penalties.
The State government has fully endorsed and encouraged the death penalty. The state holds that the death penalty is one of the most effective methods of stopping and reducing future crimes. The stand follows the argument that those who are sentenced to death would not have another chance to live. Consequently, there are no chances of crime continuation (Banks, 2012).
The death penalty is generally executed to serious criminals who may have committed crimes many times. Most of these criminals are considered dangerous not only to innocent citizens but also to the prison wardens. It is argued that these criminals may be violent enough to escape if given a life sentence.
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The criminals may also be mistakenly pardoned. When the above events occur, the criminals are likely to commit further crimes and endanger many lives. Therefore, it is better to kill these criminals, so that the crime committed is stopped completely (Murton & Hyams, 2011).
The execution of these criminals through the death penalty spreads across the globe. Therefore, the state takes this to be a warning to others who may be wishing to commit similar crimes. The few executed criminals serve as lessons to other prospective criminals in Texas who may not have been arrested. The penalty is used as a mechanism to instill fear among the citizens so as to prevent future crimes.
It also serves as clear evidence of the state's commitment to fighting genocide crimes. Finally, the state believes that executing one criminal to murder prevents many other deaths that may be committed by others or the same culprit in the future.
However, the stand is sometimes seen as a total disregard for human dignity. Many opponents of the penalty have seen it as the excessive application of the law in the name of fighting crime. Others have wondered whether genocide crimes are only evident in Texas and not in other States. Others have also argued that the death penalty in Texas has been used by the state to show its persistent commitment to fighting crime (Melville, 2010).
In this regard, a few criminals are executed, while many others perpetuate crimes without being arrested. Therefore, it is seen as a defense mechanism by the state government due to its inability to fight crime. Others feel that the death penalty in Texas does not serve the central purpose of its introduction in the USA.
Pros and Cons of the Death Penalty
The proponents of the death penalty hold that its introduction in the country's law acts as a threat to prevent homicide. The idea states that the death penalty is influential in deterring prospective murderers. The death penalty is believed to be the most painful penalty for any criminal.
The case is based on the mere fact that the penalty takes one's life. It cannot be compared to the life sentence where a criminal continues to live in prison. Therefore, the imagination of death resulting from committing a crime deters many homicide criminals who may wish to commit murder crimes in the future.
The death penalty has also been adopted in many countries due to the continued increase in crime rates. Previous research has illustrated that over two million people are beaten, and others are killed in the USA every year. The rapid crime rate is significantly attributed to the experienced leniency in courts. Therefore, the death penalty is adopted to show the seriousness applied in fighting crime. Additionally, states argue that every criminal commits a crime out of the free will (Melville, 2010).
Therefore, each one of them should be ready to take the consequences of the crime committed, including the death penalty. The proponents of the penalty deeply hold that those who kill should also be killed. They, therefore, do not understand why the citizens insist on having mercy to those who may have committed murder (the United States, 2013).
However, the death penalty is associated with many negative attributes. To begin with, death is final, and those convicted have no opportunity to reform. It is possible that some people commit crimes unknowingly, out of peer pressure. Others commit crimes due to poverty. Therefore, such people can reform and make positive contributions to the country's development. However, death denies these people a chance to be better (Banks, 2012).
Additionally, some people are executed undeservedly. In the case of accomplices, one may be wrongly present in a crime scene, where murder may have been committed. Lack of proper investigation may result in the execution of an innocent suspect. Since death is irreversible, the mistake may be realized when it is already too late.
Moreover, a critical look at the Bible nullifies any validity of the death penalty. In biblical terms, sin is a part of life. Those who commit crimes should be corrected rather than be killed. Additionally, no one is perfect themselves to allow killing others.
Finally, human life has unsubstantiated value, and only God has the power over it (Banks, 2012). In this regard, there should be alternative methods of handling homicide offenders.
In actual terms, the death penalty does not discourage crimes. In fact, states that have endorsed the death penalty have an increased number of murder crimes than the ones that have nullified it. In most cases, murder suspects are always willing to kill everyone who comes on their way so as to avoid arrest. It is apparent that the advocators of the penalty do so due to the desire for revenge. Killing a suspect who killed someone's relative, however, does not remove the pain of the killed relative (the United States, 2013).
Most of the people who commit murder crimes have certain aspects of psychological problems. Instead of totally denying them life, there has to be an alternative punishment that seeks to rehabilitate rather than to punish. The rehabilitation should be followed by continuous counseling so as to eliminate any traces of rejection and low self-esteem among the offenders. Consequently, these people should be released to the public, as reformed people to act as examples to the prospective criminals (Banks, 2012).
It is very hard to democratically consult relatives on the punishment to be passed on a victim. In most cases, passing a penalty should be free from any emotional feelings. The relatives would always propose a lenient penalty due to emotional affiliations. However, it is always advisable to keep the parents updated on the most likely penalty for the victim, so as to prepare them psychologically (the United States, 2013).