|Veteran defense lawyer Michael McCarthy (L)|
and veteran prosecutor John Skrzynski
Normally, the prosecutor has a certain period of time, known as the "statute of limitations", within which to charge a crime. An exception to this rule is murder; there is no statute of limitations on a murder charge.
The Oakland County Prosecutor recently brought two cases that alleged murders that took place in 1978 and 1968, respectively. The 1968 case charged Nolan Ray George, a suspected serial killer, with the first degree murder of Gwendolyn Perry. Likewise, the 1978 case charged Wilburn Cooper with first degree murder.
Cooper's jury convicted him in two hours flat. As for Mr. George, his defense lawyer, veteran attorney Michael McCarthy attempted to keep out evidence of so-called "prior bad acts"; two prior murders. Oakland Circuit Judge Michael Warren ruled the other murders admissible; George also was jury convicted in short order.
Forty years, thirty years, or ten; if the prosecutor can marshal evidence to prove the elements of an open murder charge beyond a reasonable doubt, murderers should pay the price for their heinous crimes. The competing interest, of course, is that any evidentiary trail grows ice cold over the decades; a defense is very difficult to mount with the passage of an ocean of time.
Mr. McCarthy was probably asked why on earth he would represent a serial killer a dozen times if he was asked once.
The criminal justice system requires seasoned defense lawyers to force the government to prove its case; each and every time. Only in this fashion do we maintain our individual liberties and avoid becoming a police state.