Thursday, June 04, 2009

Non-lethal decapitation

It's a serious problem, according to Justice James Kitchens of the Mississipppi Supreme Court:
Although the defendant frames the issue in the context of a jury instruction, I cannot overlook the curiously-drafted indictment’s coming dangerously close to omitting an essential element of murder: that is, that the defendant killed the victim. * * * This indictment alleges that Neal “did willfully, unlawfully, and feloniously decapitate Lakeshia Cleveland, a human being; Jermaine Neal acted with the deliberate design to effect the death of Lakeshia Cleveland, in direct violation of Section 97-3-19(1)(a).” (Emphasis added.)

* * * The majority opinion correctly finds the indictment sufficient “because decapitation is a certainly deadly act when done with the deliberate design to effect the death of a human being.” Maj. Op. at ¶ 11, n. 2. Obviously, decapitation is a deadly act only if the victim is still alive when beheaded, and post-mortem decapitation would constitute only mutilation of a corpse, not murder. The indictment is saved, not by the word decapitate, but by the words a human being and the phrase to effect the death of.
Four more justices signed onto this concurrence in full, one more in part (presumably a still-attached part).

I suppose one can never be too careful. (Btw, Mr. Neal did indeed perform the decapitation of his ex-girlfriend post-mortem, having shot her twice in her sleep. "When asked what prompted him to murder Cleveland, Neal responded that 'it was just a lot of pressure.'" Nothing relieves stress like a good shooting-decapitation, I suppose.)

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