Yesterday I wrote about how a Florida Appeals Court decision will result in former FBI Agent John Connolly dying in prison. I called the decision absurd in part because it held a murder was ongoing three weeks before it took place. It was being committed over a three-week time even though it was a discrete event that actually took place in a minute or two.
The facts most favorable to the state are simple. John Callahan was murdered by Martorano on July 31, 1982. Martorano said he murdered Callahan because three weeks before the murder Connolly passed word to others that the FBI was looking for Callahan. Connolly said if he cooperated he would be able to implicate Martorano and others in a murder committed by Martorano in Oklahoma. He said Martorano should handle it. At the time he met the others in Boston he was wearing his FBI gun.
The issue is whether wearing the gun in Boston three weeks before the murder in Florida Connolly was carrying a gun during the commission of the murder. The Florida court stated Connolly: ” carried during the commission of the murder, and that the crime of second degree murder was ongoing.”
The statute in question here reads: ” . . .whenever a person is charged with a felony, except . . . , and during the commission of such a felony the defendant carries, displays, uses, threatens, or attempt to use any weapon or firearm, . . . ”
The obvious intent of the statute is to tell people that if they are planning to commit a felony they will receive an increased penalty if they carry a firearm or weapon while doing it. It is to discourage people from arming themselves when they commit the felony by increasing its penalty.
The most obvious example showing the absurdity of the Florida’s court interpretation would be a case where three armed thugs are planning to rob a local enterprise. Just before they set off on their venture one of them says, “you know, under the law our sentences can be jacked up if we’re caught so let’s not bring our guns.” They take their guns off and put them away. It would seem that is precisely the effect intended by the statute.
But under the Connolly decision it is too late since they have already committed the robbery and are wearing guns. Now, rather than not bringing their guns, one of them says: “it’s too late, we’ve already committed the robbery with our guns, so we might as well wear them. So let’s go and do the robbery.” Rather than deterring the carrying of guns the Connolly decision encourages them. Was that the intent of the statute to make more people carry weapons or firearms when committing felonies?
Whether former FBI Agent John Connolly was a corrupt agent or not is really not the issue. The issue is whether the acts he allegedly committed have been charged properly within the time limits set out in the law by Florida’s statute of limitations. Courts are not supposed to say “look, this defendant is a real bad guy, therefore even though the charges were not brought on time we’ll come up with a way to overlook this.” It might as well say “look, this defendant is a real bad guy therefore even though he didn’t commit the crime we’ll rule that he did.”
When the Florida court takes a statute which is enacted with the express purpose of discouraging people from having weapons or firearms on them during the commission of a felony and suggests that the purpose of the statute was to encourage people to bring weapons or firearms when they commit a felony then there is no law in Florida.