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Going to Prison: Noel Pleads Guilty in the Bagley Case

March 16, 2011

The story (see here) doesn’t provide a lot of new information.  The one thing it does tell us is that Noel is now a prosecution witness.  While Bagley’s attorney virtually has to say that it doesn’t hurt her client, that’s not true.  Even if the jury thinks that Noel is a completely untrustworthy piece of garbage, having him say the things he said in his plea to the jury — that FV was a victim rather than a willing participant, and that she had a limited mental age and limited ability to communicate — are going to make it a lot tougher for the defense to win a trial.

(Legal types and critics of the criminal justice system will no doubt note that the federal system strongly incentivizes defendants to agree to say whatever the prosecution already believes is true, as the guideline provision covering cooperation, 5k1.1, is still the most powerful tool to reduce a sentence, and the process puts a great deal of power in the hands of the prosecutor, who doesn’t write the coveted “5k letter” until the cooperator’s testimony is all done.  Those criticism are trenchant and I’d be remiss to ignore them.)

One of the other defendants, Bradley Cook, is alleged to have tried to hire a hitman to kill FV, and the prosecutor (who is a woman), and has been moved to a different prison — though no additional charges have been filed against him.  For those keeping score, that’s two defendants with a history of threatening women apart from FV.  Depending on evidentiary rulings, that conduct might even be admissible as what’s sometimes called “consciousness of guilt” evidence, just like fleeing or destroying evidence.  I can’t guess how likely the prosecution is to get that in without knowing a lot more facts, but if it gets in, my view is that they’re all toast.  Conventional wisdom among criminal defense lawyers is that juries eat up consciousness of guilt evidence.

h/t Clarisse

 

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