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UI Kidnapping Case - Question about Criminal Defense Lawyer

Discussion in 'Justice System, Criminal Lawyers' started by GHHE, Jul 6, 2017.

  1. GHHE

    GHHE Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Dear Friends,

    I have been following this case in the news closely: NOW: Bail denied; Christensen allegedly described 'characteristics of an ideal victim' at vigil

    As some of you may know, on June 9th a 26 year old scholar from China was kidnapped near the UI campus. The FBI have charged an ex-PhD student with the kidnapping and the trial has kicked off in federal court. If convicted, the ex-student could face life in prison. The kidnapped scholar is presumed dead, but details are unknown and a body has not been found.

    My question is simple - presumably the alleged kidnapper is the only one who knows the whereabouts of the scholar, though he is standing trial for this act and has naturally admitted to nothing. There is still a chance that, if he reveals information that is not yet known to the police, that her body or even she can be found, since she is only presumed dead. If this might be true, then time is of the essence.

    His lawyer is obviously going to advise him to keep his mouth shut, and use this information as leverage. My question is this: Is there any recourse that we the public have in regard to the laywer? Is the defense lawyer not obstructing an investigation here? Please help. Thank you.

    Gary
     
  2. mightymoose

    mightymoose Moderator

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    No.
    It is unlikely the defense attorney knows that information.
    You could only presume obstruction is taking place if you also presume guilt, but even so, there is no recourse and it is not obstruction.
    There are some ethical issues the attorney may have to deal with, but as I said, it is unlikely the attorney even knows that information.
     
  3. zddoodah

    zddoodah Well-Known Member

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    The question makes no sense as phrased. Recourse for what? Why would "the public" have any recourse? "The public" has no legal interest in the case (except to the extent that the case is prosecuted in the name of the United States of America). What exactly is it that you think the lawyer is doing that is inappropriate?

    As phrased, the answer to the question is yes. Apparently, you think it is "obstructing an investigation" for a criminal defense lawyer to "advise [his client] to keep his mouth shut, and use this information as leverage." "This information" is information that you "presum[e] [is known only to] the alleged kidnapper."

    First of all, the word "alleged" is extremely important. While you might want to assume that anyone charged with a crime is guilty, that's not how it works in the U.S. Therefore, your assumption that the defendant knows anything may be completely wrong. Second, in the United States, we have these things called the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and part of that is the absolute right to remain silent. While the right to remain silent applies only to the defendant, and not the lawyer, the lawyer is bound by the attorney-client privilege, and the lawyer wouldn't be doing his job if he didn't advise his client to take advantage of his constitutional rights. Third, even if you want to say, "screw the Constitution," what exactly would you have the lawyer do? It's not like he can force his client to reveal information that the client may or may not know.
     
  4. GHHE

    GHHE Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Sure, as an American I understand this. Am certainly no legal mind but I understand his rights and the actions of his lawyer. To put it more simply, many in the community are simply frustrated that with publicly available video evidence of the kidnapping (she got into his car), recording of admission of said kidnapping (by the FBI), documentation of suspect showing up at the victim's vigil pointing out more 'ideal victims' (FBI), that the whereabouts of the body have not been and probably will not be found. I was just wondering about any special exceptions/rules which might apply here that as a layman I don't know of - grasping at straws, I guess. Speaking of which - when the FBI presumes someone to be dead publicly, is that typically a strong indication that they have evidence for it?

    Thanks again.
     
  5. GHHE

    GHHE Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Thanks, that's very helpful. I realize now that my question is a legal nonstarter. Hopefully, those reading this can forgive the overreach of a layperson. Because of the information available and lack of a body, many people believe she might still be alive, and therefore the silence from the alleged kidnapper is deafening.
     
  6. zddoodah

    zddoodah Well-Known Member

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    Fair enough. This is the sort of thing that gets discussed in law school ethics classes all the time. There are some instances in some states in which a lawyer may or must breach confidentiality, but my recollection is that they only apply if a living person is in immediate danger (the state in which I am licensed has no such rule, so I'm recalling things I learned a long time ago).

    I doubt it, but you'd have to ask someone with the FBI.
     
  7. ElleMD

    ElleMD Well-Known Member

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    Nothing prevents law enforcement from continuing an investigation so long as they continue to have leads or new information becomes available. After some time, the case turns cold and sits until some new piece of evidence surfaces.

    As for when someone can be presumed dead as a legal matter (in order to collect on a life insurance policy, a spouse may legally be permitted to remarry, etc.) is up to state law. There is no set criteria for when law enforcement may conclude that it is more likely than not the case that the victim is deceased.
     

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