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Appellate Court Decides if Conspiracy Ruling is Designed to Prevent Different Kinds of Harm


A man filed an action to dismiss the charge of murder against him. He subsequently indicted in the State of Maryland, along with his colleague, on the allegation that he conspired with them to the murder of the victim. But, the man was acquitted of the conspiracy charge upon a jury verdict. The narrow issue presented by the motion is whether the conspiracy ruling and the murder statute are designed to prevent different kinds of harm.

The acts allegedly committed by the man which underlie both the Maryland and New York court are substantially the same. The evidence revealed that the man directed his colleague to go from Maryland to New York to kill the victim. It is alleged that the man’s colleague shot and killed the victim in New York.

The man apparently recognizes that the still viable dual sovereignty doctrine permits consecutive proceeding based upon the same transaction or event. Therefore, the double jeopardy clause is not relevant to the motion.

Based on records, the term criminal transaction is defined as a group of acts either so closely related and connected in point of time and circumstance of commission as to constitute a single criminal happening, or so closely related in criminal purpose or objective as to constitute elements or integral parts of a single criminal scheme. In the case, both parties are in agreement that the Maryland and New York prosecutions involve the same criminal transaction.

Sources revealed that the two different prosecutions clearly contain an element not found in the other. The key element of the New York statute is an accomplished murder. But, the Maryland statute is founded upon a common law offense, the idea of which is unlawful combination and which requires no obvious act to establish the offense.

In addition to the fact that the crimes charged each contain an element not contained in the other the court of appeals has recognized that the crime of conspiracy and the crime which is the object of that conspiracy are two separate offenses.

The issue presented is a close one and not overall free from doubt. To conclude, the court believed that the two prosecutions involved are in fact intended to contest very different kinds of harm that they differ materially in scope and purpose.

The clear rationale underlying the trilogy is that the crime charged in New York could have been charged and prosecuted in the federal conspiracy. The court stated then that the New York crime could have been charged as no more than an overt act in Maryland and could not have been charged there as an independent crime. It would consequently appear that the court of appeal’s reference to the embracive nature of conspiracy has little relevance to the case, where such embracive nature did not permit Maryland to charge the New York offense in general.

Evidence revealed that the murder was apparently committed in New York. But, the court didn’t believe that a conspiracy proceeding in Maryland, aimed at Maryland conduct, in which the fact of the murder was but an overt act, and not a fact necessary to that trial, bars a New York prosecution for the murder. Consequently, the court ordered to deny the man’s motion.

Based on records, it nevertheless should be noted that the man never left Maryland. His mere membership in the conspiracy, standing alone, may not be a sufficient reason for accessorial liability in New York criminal law. Therefore, the issue is not in the court and should not prevent New York from seeking to establish the man’s criminal liability for the crime of murder.

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