I got news this afternoon from Joe Grumbine of The Human Solution International of a Not Guilty verdict in the case of Kyler Carriker, accused of felony murder. “This whole case was about jury nullification and bad law,” Joe reports.

Carriker was not involved with the killing, but was charged under a state law that lets the government charge certain other people with murder who are present when the murder takes place but did not actually commit the crime. In this case, Carriker was scooped up by the law and charged with murder merely for introducing the person who committed the actual murder to a pot dealer. He had no idea in doing so that this was going to be anything other than a peaceful transaction. Thankfully, a jury saw that treating his victimless action as a murder was DRASTICALLY out of bounds of justice.

Man found not guilty of murder in drug deal

“We have said from the beginning that Kyler Carriker was not a murderer,” [Carriker’s attorney] Swain said. “He should not have been charged with felony murder. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

“He was shot by the real murderers, who are in prison. I think the jury’s verdict shows that that’s what they believed also.”

Kansas’ felony murder law allows prosecutors to bring murder charges against a person implicated in but not directly responsible for a killing that occurs during the execution of a felony crime.

Unfortunately, it appears that the jury left the door open by convicting Carriker of helping to facilitate a quarter-pound marijuana deal. This raises cause for concern in a legal environment where judges have the ability to sentence defendants for uncharged and even acquitted conduct.

Consider the case of Jones v. United States, turned down for review last year by the Supreme Court of the United States:
The jury acquits, the judge still sentences. Can that be?

The jury in the case of three Washington, D.C., men found them not guilty of a conspiracy to run an “open air” market for large quantities of illegal drugs on the streets of the nation’s capital, but it did find them guilty only of selling small quantities. If the sentencing had followed those results, the three men would have faced sentences under federal guidelines of between thirty-three and seventy-one months.

The judge, however, decided that sentencing could also take into account the conduct that had led to the more serious conspiracy charge (the so-called “acquitted conduct”) and opted to give the three men sentences ranging from 180 to 225 months. They argued unsuccessfully, in a federal appeals court, that the longer sentences violated their Sixth Amendment right to have a jury decide the issue of guilt. The judge, in essence, convicted them of the more serious offense, too, despite the jury’s contrary verdict.

This is just one of the underhanded ways courts have found to do an end run around a jury’s verdict when the outcome doesn’t suit their different interests tilted toward conviction and mass incarceration. His attorney will be seeking probation on this count, but the jury could have closed the door on this nightmare by nullifying on the other victimless count as well. Let us hope that sanity, decency, and mercy prevail when all is said and done in the sentencing phase.