Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Anatomy of a Murder: Murder by Falsification

In Parts 1, 2, and 3 of this series of unknown length, we have established that if someone, while in Texas, commits a felony that contributes to an execution, that person is guilty of murder. It makes no difference of the defendant was guilty or innocent. It makes no difference if the felony was committed before, during, or after trial. It matters only that the person "commits or attempts to commit a felony ... and in the course of and in furtherance of the commission or attempt ... he commits or attempts to commit an act clearly dangerous to human life that causes the death of an individual."

For convenience, I will label this crime Murder by Falsification.

In this post, I will merely repeat what I believe to be the relevant sections of the Texas Penal Code that relate to felonies one might commit while attempting to frame someone for murder. I'll allow you, the acute and discerning readers of this august blog, to discuss in the comments how the offences defined under Chapter 37 might apply to our hypothetical murder.


Sec. 37.02.  PERJURY.
(a)  A person commits an offense if, with intent to deceive and with knowledge of the statement's meaning:
(1)  he makes a false statement under oath or swears to the truth of a false statement previously made and the statement is required or authorized by law to be made under oath;  or 
(2)  he makes a false unsworn declaration under Chapter 132, Civil Practice and Remedies Code.
(b)  An offense under this section is a Class A misdemeanor.

(a)  A person commits an offense if he commits perjury as defined in Section 37.02, and the false statement:
(1)  is made during or in connection with an official proceeding;  and 
(2)  is material.
(b)  An offense under this section is a felony of the third degree.

(a)  A person commits an offense if, with intent to deceive, he knowingly makes a false statement that is material to a criminal investigation and makes the statement to:
(1)  a peace officer or federal special investigator conducting the investigation; or 
(2)  any employee of a law enforcement agency that is authorized by the agency to conduct the investigation and that the actor knows is conducting the investigation.
(b)  In this section, "law enforcement agency" has the meaning assigned by Article 59.01, Code of Criminal Procedure.

(c)  An offense under this section is a Class B misdemeanor.

(a)  A person commits an offense if, knowing that an investigation or official proceeding is pending or in progress, he:
(1)  alters, destroys, or conceals any record, document, or thing with intent to impair its verity, legibility, or availability as evidence in the investigation or official proceeding;  or 
(2)  makes, presents, or uses any record, document, or thing with knowledge of its falsity and with intent to affect the course or outcome of the investigation or official proceeding.
(b)  This section shall not apply if the record, document, or thing concealed is privileged or is the work product of the parties to the investigation or official proceeding.

(c)  An offense under Subsection (a) or Subsection (d)(1) is a felony of the third degree, unless the thing altered, destroyed, or concealed is a human corpse, in which case the offense is a felony of the second degree. An offense under Subsection (d)(2) is a Class A misdemeanor.

(d)  A person commits an offense if the person:
(1)  knowing that an offense has been committed, alters, destroys, or conceals any record, document, or thing with intent to impair its verity, legibility, or availability as evidence in any subsequent investigation of or official proceeding related to the offense; or 
(2)  observes a human corpse under circumstances in which a reasonable person would believe that an offense had been committed, knows or reasonably should know that a law enforcement agency is not aware of the existence of or location of the corpse, and fails to report the existence of and location of the corpse to a law enforcement agency.


Anonymous said...

Not much traction on the last two posts. Has there been any legal cases of your position? there has been legal cases of charges of perjury, but I can't find any of murder charges because of perjury.

From your logic, there was no reason to define perjury seperate, because if perjury resulted n a fine the crime would be theft, if it resulted in jail time, the punishment would be kidnapping. So the issue is when the state legislatures explictly wrote the rules regarding perjury, did they think, "Hey they may still fall under other rules so we'll let those cover perjury" or did they define perjury seperate from murder, theft, and kidnapping so somebody would get punishment from lying or obstructing justice? The only issue with perjury is its statue of limitations since it runs out after 3 years.

Anonymous said...

The reason perjury is defined separately is that it is a crime even if it has no particular effect other than the lie itself. This doesn't mean that if it has consequences one cannot be charged with those consequences.

Earlier English lawyers did discuss this issue, and many of thim held that perjury resulting in execution should be held to be murder.

Anonymous said...

I think the reason people aren't commenting is that it is obvious from the description which actions can result in murder charges, namely those which are described as felonies as opposed to misdemeanors.

Anonymous said...

Here'a link to it being discussed in common law

I did like the penalty back then, both ears nailed to the pillory.

But I do think it's hard to set in stone when the only example of it is a Law and Order episode.

I guess since this never comes up much state's don't really care, but they could have done a better job with explictly defining it like California did.


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