When a person is charged with a crime the type of defense that they choose could ultimately determine their fate. There are many different types of defenses that exist in our criminal justice system. In this paper I will be taking a brief look at two different cases that have implored two different types of criminal defenses. I will look at the nature and types of defenses used in the cases and what evidence was used to demonstrate defense. I will describe how justification and excuse played a role in the cases and I will also be describing the outcome of each case.
The first case that I will be examining will be in the case of the sleepwalking defense. On May 3, 1987, 23 year-old, Kenneth Parks, drove 14 miles to his wife’s parents house and viciously attacked them, killing his wife’s mother and severely wounding her father. “Accounts say he removed a tire iron from the car and entered the house, where he proceeded to beat his mother-in-law to death and choke his father-in-law into unconsciousness, while stabbing them with their own kitchen knife (Ramsland). ” He then drove himself to a police station to turn himself in. He told the cops over and over “I think I have killed some people with my bare hands”, identifying his victims and claiming it was “all my fault” (Ramsland). ”
“Kenneth Parks had a prior history of sleepwalking, so his attorney decided to use the defense of homicidal somnambulism (Ramsland). ” Parks claimed he had no memory of any of the events of the night in question, and could only remember waking up in police custody, so therefore must have been “sleepwalking. ” “On May 25, 1988, the jury acquitted Parks of murder and later of attempted murder, and while controversial the verdict stood (Ramsland).
This case is one of very few where the “sleepwalking” excuse actually worked. Others who attempted this same tactic later on, was found very unsuccessful, in other words not so lucky as Kenneth Parks had been. Another example of a criminal defense case can be seen in the case of Colin Ferguson. “On December 7, 1993, Colin Ferguson boarded a Long Island rail road train, waited until it left New York City, then opened fire on the white passengers around him, wounding 19 and killing six (Mills, 1994). ”
Ferguson’s targets were “white” people and while he was going to re-load his gun, he was over powered by three other passengers who were able to restrain him until the proper authorities got there. Ferguson’s attorneys, Ronald Kuby and William Kunstler, put together a defense based on “black rage. ” Ferguson’s defense argued that he was driven temporarily insane with black rage as a result of living in a white-dominated society, and as such could not be held criminally liable for his actions (Koenig, 2009).
While the trial started, Ferguson’s defense attorneys prepared their powerful opening remarks, in which they insisted that it would be a land mark case for race relations in the United States. Unfortunately, Ferguson fired all his attorneys at the last minute and decided to represent himself. Ferguson then came up with a more bizarre excuse for his crimes stating that a computer chip had been implanted in his brain and was requesting Bill Clinton be called to the witness stand (Koenig, 2009).
The outcome of the trial was that we was convicted on six counts of murder, and 19 counts of attempted murder, and was sentenced to 315 years to life in prison (Koenig, 2009). He should of just went ahead with his lawyers, more than likely the “black rage” defense would of help up, assuming all the bragging the defense attorneys were doing before the trial had even begun. People will say and do just about anything to keep from going to jail or prison. Criminal defenses such as the sleepwalking defense and the black rage defense are just in my opinion just another excuse to get away with a crime they have committed.
There are many different types of defenses one can use, but people have to be careful of the defense they choose, because that defense can ultimately choose their fate in the end.