A Harsh Lesson in the Law of Obstruction of Justice
The accusations facing Mr. Daniel McKinley were as follows: One fall evening, a man in a black mask carried a gun into a convenience store in Lauderdale Lakes, Florida. The store’s manager immediately tried to close himself in the cashier’s booth behind a bulletproof door. As he was doing so, the robber reached forward and stopped the door from closing with his left hand. Using his right hand, the robber pointed his gun at the manager and ordered him to open the door. The manager obeyed, and the robber emptied two cash registers into a bag. As the robber turned to leave, the manager succeeded in locking himself inside the booth, but also managed to lock the robber inside the store. The robber began screaming and waving his gun at the manager. The manager unlocked the door using a button beneath the cash register, and the robber left the scene.
At trial, Mr. McKinley denied these allegations. He said that, although he was a frequent patron of the convenience store, he hadn’t been there on the day in question. Asked for details about his whereabouts, Mr. McKinley simply claimed he didn’t remember. However, the police recovered some hard evidence that made Mr. McKinley’s alibi look fairly unlikely. First, they found one of his fingerprints on the door to the cashier’s booth. Second, they found blood on the floor, which they used to conduct a DNA analysis, which returned a match. Despite this evidence, Mr. McKinley persisted in denying the charges, claiming that neither the fingerprint nor the blood was his, and that the state’s fingerprint and DNA analyses were faulty.
The jury didn’t buy it, and Mr. McKinley was convicted. In sentencing him, the judge chose to apply an enhancement for obstruction of justice, on the grounds that Mr. McKinley had perjured himself during the trial. In the face of such overwhelming scientific evidence, the judge ruled, it was obvious that Mr. McKinley’s denials of the accusations against him were outright lies. Mr. McKinley and his lawyer, however, almost certainly believed that they were simply exercising their constitutional right to defend themselves against criminal charges. After all, the state had the burden to prove each element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. It was not incumbent on Mr. McKinley to help them in that endeavor. Moreover, he had the right to take the stand in his own defense. Therefore, he and his attorney argued, his defense tactics, however implausible, couldn’t be considered perjury.
The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, however, disagreed, and found no error in the trial court judge’s conclusion that Mr. McKinley had perjured himself. The court stated that “his testimony that he had no involvement in the robbery… was expressly contradicted by DNA and fingerprint evidence from the scene of the crime.” Furthermore, the court added, “the Supreme Court has made it abundantly clear that a defendant’s right to testify does not include a right to commit perjury.” Therefore, the court found, Mr. McKinley had obstructed justice.
Good Counsel Can Protect You
The lesson here is that the federal obstruction of justice laws are very broad and that a layman’s (or a weaker lawyer’s) misunderstanding of them can result in a harsher sentence. Don’t make the same mistake Mr. McKinley did. Hire experienced obstruction of justice counsel like Miami based JeffreyS. Weiner, P.A., who can protect you from harming your own case.