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Spousal privilege might hinder case against suspected murderer

Spousal privilege is a term that is used to describe the legal right of one spouse refusing to testify against his or her spouse during criminal justice hearings. That Missouri statute is what prosecutors believe led a suspect in a triple murder to marry the prosecution's essential witness.

The witness was with the man when he allegedly killed three people. One of the victims was a 1-year-old boy. The others were an 18-year-old female and a 17-year-old female. The witness told police what happened after the incident; however, since she married the man on Dec. 7, she might be exempt from having to testify against the man.

The state noted that the woman's statement that detailed what happened, including the fact that she and the man collected the 14 shell casings after the man shot the victims, was the basis of the prosecution's case for the felony charges.

The man denies his involvement in the murders. He faces three counts of first-degree murder and is being held on a $1 million cash bond. In fact, he was in jail when the witness filed for a marriage license on which he was classified as an "absent applicant" because he was in jail.

Since the marriage, the witness has been arrested for two counts of tampering with evidence and one count of first-degree burglary. She is being held on a $75,000 bond with her next hearing scheduled for Jan. 27.

There are several aspects of the Missouri's spousal privilege statute that are coming into the picture in this case. One of those is that the statute sets an exclusion for murder cases in which the victim was under 18 years old. Since two of the victims were under 18, it will be interesting to see how this case ends up being handled.

This case is an example of how laws and statutes can affect a criminal justice case. If you are facing charges, you should make sure that you understand how any applicable statutes or laws might impact your case.

Source: Kansas City Star, "Triple murder suspect in Kansas City weds ‘essential’ witness against him," Matt Campbell, Jan. 21, 2016

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