In January of 2012, Richard Frank Thomas was convicted of the murder of Elijah Todd Butler, a crime that took place in October of 1971. Butler was a Marine who had married Geraldine Butler just four days earlier. According to a news article at Mlive.com, the man’s dying words, “Gerry, he did it” spoken in the arms of his wife were what helped convict Thomas more than 40 years later.
Geraldine Butler told authorities that Thomas had said that if she gave him her virginity, he would leave the couple alone. She alleged that Thomas had made death threats against herself and her husband. Butler was killed when he was shot at the doorstep of his home. Thomas allegedly threatened anyone who may know what he had done to keep quiet after the murder.
It was only after another murder that Thomas’s threats became more credible. In 1976, Thomas was convicted of murdering Robert Groothuis, a gas station owner. Thomas allegedly shot Groothuis, and was sentenced to life in prison. Still, it was 40 years later before the Metro Kent Cold Case Team would arrest Thomas for the murder of Butler.
Just this week, the Michigan Court of Appeals disagreed with Thomas’s claim that he had been denied his constitutional rights to a speedy trial. Thomas had also claimed that the delay damaged the credibility of witnesses, as the lapse of time since the shooting must have compromised witnesses’ memories.
Because Thomas was not arrested for the offense at the time it occurred, the appeals court found that his constitutional right to a speedy trial had not been violated. According to the court, “Mere delay between the time of the commission of an offense and arrest is not a denial of due process. There is no constitutional right to be arrested.” The appeals court also determined that Thomas’s claim that witnesses’ memories had deteriorated could not be shown to have affected the defense in his case, because the defendant could not show that any individual was capable of providing substantial proof of an alibi for Thomas at the time the crime was committed.
Experienced Michigan criminal appeals lawyers understand the difficulties individuals who have been convicted of a crime face. There are occasions on which an innocent person is convicted. At other times, sentencing may seem extremely harsh, and out of line with the state’s sentencing guidelines.
If you believe your constitutional rights were violated or you have been wrongly convicted, contact a capable Michigan criminal appeals attorney right away.