Little Rock, AR asked in Criminal Law, Federal Crimes and Wrongful Death for Arkansas

Q: Why is inciting someone to commit murder a class Y felony and murder a class A felony

In 2011 a sister called her brother because she was angry with her boyfriend and provided false information which angered the brother to the extent he took a handgun, drove to the sister & boyfriend's residence, lay in wait for the boyfriend and shot him in the chest. The brother was charged and sentenced for murder. The sister, responsible for inciting the murder, was never charged. Why?

1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
James L. Arrasmith pro label Lawyers, want to be a Justia Connect Pro too? Learn more ›
  • Criminal Law Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA

A: There are a few reasons why the sister in this case may not have been charged, even though inciting murder is generally a more serious felony than murder itself in Arkansas:

1. Evidentiary issues - While the sister allegedly provided false information that incited the shooting, proving that she specifically intended or attempted to get her brother to commit murder (as required for the incitement charge) may have been challenging. If evidence of her direct intent was lacking, prosecutors likely could not pursue that more serious charge.

2. Immunity issues - Arkansas law prohibits charging accessories or accomplices to a crime as principal actors. So if the sister was considered an "accessory before the fact" rather than the main inciter, she would be immune from prosecution while her brother was convicted as the principal.

3. Plea bargaining strategy - Prosecutors sometimes decline charging accessories or lesser participants in crimes so that they can secure testimony and cooperation in the prosecution of the principal perpetrators. So foregoing charges against the sister may have aided in convicting her brother.

4. Sentencing impacts - Because the brother was already facing a severe sentence for murder, adding charges against the sister may not have meaningfully impacted the overall sentencing outcome in the case. So prosecutors focused resources only on the stronger murder charges.

Ultimately, more facts on evidence and prosecutorial discretion decisions would be needed to fully understand why one sibling was charged for murder and the other wasn't in this tragic case. But the reasons above highlight some possibilities.

Justia Ask a Lawyer is a forum for consumers to get answers to basic legal questions. Any information sent through Justia Ask a Lawyer is not secure and is done so on a non-confidential basis only.

The use of this website to ask questions or receive answers does not create an attorney–client relationship between you and Justia, or between you and any attorney who receives your information or responds to your questions, nor is it intended to create such a relationship. Additionally, no responses on this forum constitute legal advice, which must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case. You should not act upon information provided in Justia Ask a Lawyer without seeking professional counsel from an attorney admitted or authorized to practice in your jurisdiction. Justia assumes no responsibility to any person who relies on information contained on or received through this site and disclaims all liability in respect to such information.

Justia cannot guarantee that the information on this website (including any legal information provided by an attorney through this service) is accurate, complete, or up-to-date. While we intend to make every attempt to keep the information on this site current, the owners of and contributors to this site make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to from this site.