Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The Pennsylvania Chainsaw Massacre

The best Defense case is almost always the simplest one, and no doubt that’s the one that Harlow Cuadra’s and Joe Kerekes’ lawyers have planned. But the facts in evidence may not cooperate with that scheme.

Texas defense attorney
Mark Bennett sums things up quite succinctly. ‘When you have a criminal case to defend, every piece of evidence will fall into one of three categories:

-Things you contest (“no...”);

-Things you explain (“yes, but...."); and

-Things you accept ("[but...] so what?”).

In the Kocis case, there are plenty of things the Defense can accept (or will be forced to accept). Here are a few of those:

-The gun shop tape shows what it shows (but, so what?);

-Harlow’s Discover card shows the pair rented that SUV (but, so what?)

-Someone at Joe’s and Harlow’s house sent those early ‘Danny Moulin’ emails from IP addresses assigned to Harlow’s account (but, so what?)

-That background check on Bryan Kocis was purchased online using Harlow’s credit card (but, so what?); and,

-Harlow and Joe were deep in debt (but, again, so what?)

You get the idea.

Now, there does come a point at which letting too much evidence like that go by undisputed has the Defense helping make the circumstantial case against Harlow and Joe. That’s when their attorneys will have to start explaining things. For example:

The Black’s Beach tape says what it says (but Harlow and Joe were just talking big... they weren’t serious.)

-Joe did tell a Times Leader reporter that Harlow was at the murder scene (but, at the time, he was just angry about hurtful things said on Harlow’s blog.)

Justin Hensley says that Harlow and Joe saw Cobra as their main rival (but there are dozens of similar companies, and none of their head honchos got killed.)

-Grant Roy has all kinds of incriminating things to say about Harlow and Joe (but Roy and Sean Lockhart are obvious suspects themselves.)

...and so on. The arguments may be strong or weak, but they’ll have to be made.

Which brings us to the tough stuff; the accusations that the Defense just has to vociferously contest or flatly deny:

-Authorities say that the camcorders found in Harlow's and Joe's house might have belonged to Kocis... (no, the Defense must say, they're not the same camcorders.)

-The coroner says that the knife Harlow and Joe bought is likely the weapon that killed Kocis... (no, the Defense must say, that knife wasn’t ever out of its packaging.)

-Police say Harlow and Joe went to Kocis’ house to murder him... (no, the Defense is almost forced to argue, they may have been nearby but neither of them were ever in that house.)

Of course, as attorney Bennett also points out, “[e]very contest... [every outright denial] and every explanation, however, complicates your case. Complicating your case is not desirable...."

Bennett calls the concept “Bennett’s Chainsaw,” and it’s a variation on the famous Occam’s Razor idea.

It goes like this: “The more things you must contest and the more explanations you must provide in order to mount a defense, the more likely it is that you will be convicted.”

-Both PC and KM contributed to this story.