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Jan 5 09 7:35 PM

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This is a multiple message post explaining some legal issues that readers may find helpful in understanding when or if criminal charges will be filed in this case. This post was inspired by a question posed by poster Thomas Jefferson on topix.

Thomas Jefferson wrote:

Y'all, I'm teetering 50/50 on whether or not Maura ever left Amherst. Knowing if there is indeed a recipe of her at store or ATM, and what is on that recipe could really help in solving this case. AND if LE has recipe, and recipe does exist, and Maura isn't on it, why hasn't an arrest been made. Would the evidence be too circumstantial to hold up in court? Mason?
____________

Everyone who visits this site often enough to know what we know and don't know is in as good a position as I am to answer your question, including you. I'll provide the definitions that are given to jurors in every case and let y'all decide.

Direct evidence is evidence perceived by one or more of the five senses. Circumstantial evidence is evidence inferred from direct evidence such as it must have snowed last night because there was no snow on the ground before I went to bed and there was snow on the ground when I got up this morning.

The law does not assign more value to direct evidence than circumstantial evidence. One is not necessarily more valuable than the other. Jurors get to decide how much weight to assign to the evidence.

The prosecution has the burden of proof in a criminal case and must prove each element of the crime charged beyond a reasonable doubt. The elements of a crime are defined by statute. For example, the crime of Murder in the First degree consists of the following elements:

1. On or about the 9th day of February, 2004;

2. The defendant;

3. Caused the death of Maura Murray, a human being;

4. With premeditated intent to cause her death; and

5. The act or acts that caused her death occurred within the State of New Hampshire in Grafton County.

The defendant must be presumed innocent and must be found not guilty unless the prosecution overcomes the presumption of innocence by proof beyond a reasonable doubt. The defendant does not have to testify or present any evidence. The defendant has a constitutional right to remain silent and no presumption of guilt may be drawn from his silence.

Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is not proof beyond all doubt. A reasonable doubt is a doubt for which a reason exists and it may arise from the evidence or lack of evidence.

To reach a verdict of guilty or not guilty, the jury must be unanimous. If the jury cannot unanimously agree that the defendant is guilty, or not guilty, the judge must declare a mistrial after which the prosecution must decide whether to retry the defendant or dismiss the case.

I hope this message has been helpful to readers in understanding the intellectual process that a prosecutor must go through in deciding whether to charge someone or seek a grand jury indictment charging someone in this case. I've used the standard definition of first degree murder as an illustrative example. The New Hampshire statute may be different, but I'm sure it will include causation and premeditation elements.

Okay, we don't have any direct evidence, such as her body, that Maura Murray is dead. We don't necessarily need any direct evidence because death can be proven by circumstantial evidence alone. There is quite a lot of circumstantial evidence that she is dead, but is there enough to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that she is dead. If you doubt Maura is dead, is your doubt supported by a reason, or is it just wishful thinking?

I believe all of us would like to know what the vote will be on the death element. I'm going to pose the question as follows:

Are you convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that Maura Murray is dead?

Yes ______________

No _______________


For the time being let's leave out the identity of the defendant, intent, cause of death, and location of death issues.

Are you convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that Maura Murray is dead? (Result)

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#1 [url]

Jan 8 09 1:52 AM

In the early year of 2004, the Caledonian Record ran a Poll as to
Maura Murray's status...the majority was that she had been abducted and killed...What good is this new Poll....I, and as many, do not believe that
Maura is still alive....

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#2 [url]

Jan 8 09 7:48 AM

The new poll is currently running 50/50.

So currently there is no majority opinion either way and this poll may be more accurate because the Caledonian records poll would have been easier to vote more than once. This poll may be less representative because of the lower number of votes.

As far as "what good is this new poll" it is no less or more useful than anything else that has been done.

For the record, I think it is unlikely that she is alive but the way this poll is worded I had to vote no, not yes. I am not convinced beyond reasonable doubt. Not yet.

Bill

But hey, what do I know. I sometimes live in a tent when I have a perfectly good house to stay in.

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#3 [url]

Jan 8 09 4:32 PM

I worded the question the way I did because a prosecutor always asks whether he or she can prove whatever charge they might have in mind beyond a reasonable doubt. If they don't believe they can, they usually wont pursue the matter further.

Death is an element of any homicide case, obviously. A prosecutor isn't likely to file a murder charge against someone in Maura's case, given the way the voting is going, unless her body is found.

That's what this poll suggests to me and now the vote is 9 to 7 with the "not dead" voters leading.

I hope you know what I meant to say because that sure doesn't look right.

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#4 [url]

Jan 9 09 12:41 PM

Mason wrote:
I hope you know what I meant to say because that sure doesn't look right.


I believe that I know exactly what you were trying to get at and that is why I voted as I did. If it was a criminal trial I would not be able to vote for a guilty verdict for someone you (a prosecutor) claimed killed Maura. There isn’t enough proof for me to believe that she is dead or that someone killed her with the information I know.

range">Again, I suspect she is likely dead but I don’t have enough information to claim that beyond a reasonable doubt and convict someone for that crime with what I know.



And you are correct that with what I know. It would absolutely be necessary to have a body or strong circumstantial evidence that convinces me of foul play and who did it. Not for shock value but the body isn’t needed. All that would be needed is finding of a part that she cannot live without or a bone proven to be hers. Alternately, finding an individual that has committed a crime against juices who had the motive and opportunity to do the same with Maura. Those are the elements that would be enough to convince me without a body.

Bill

But hey, what do I know. I sometimes live in a tent when I have a perfectly good house to stay in.

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