Parents of Murdered Children | SEMNPOMC
Parents of Murdered Children | SEMNPOMC Parents of Murdered Children | SEMNPOMC Parents of Murdered Children | SEMNPOMC Parents of Murdered Children | SEMNPOMC Parents of Murdered Children | SEMNPOMC

All legal matters filed in the criminal justice system are broadly classified as c ivil or criminal.

Civil
Civil cases are usually disputes between private citizens, corporations, governmental bodies or other organizations. They may involve property or personal rights.

In a civil action, decisions are based upon a preponderance of evidence. This means that the party bringing the action (plaintiff) must prove his or her case by presenting evidence that is more convincing to the judge or jury than the opposing evidence.

Criminal
Criminal cases are brought by the government against individuals or corporations accused of committing a crime. The government makes the charge because a crime is considered an act against all of society. The prosecuting attorney prosecutes the charge against the accused person (defendant) on behalf of the government (plaintiff). In criminal cases, the prosecution must prove that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

There are two major classifications of crimes: felonies and misdemeanors. The more serious crimes are called felonies and are punishable by confinement in a state prison.

Lesser offenses are called misdemeanors. There are three types of misdemeanors, depending on the seriousness of the crime. These offenses are punishable by confinement in a local jail and/or payment of a fine. They are gross misdemeanors, misdemeanors, and petty misdemeanors.

The government has the burden of proving the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The defendant does not have to prove his or her innocence.

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The Role of Law Enforcement in Homicide Investigations
When a homicide has been committed, law enforcement will be the first people involved. A lead investigator is then assigned to each case. This investigating officer’s job is to gather evidence and to try to find out that committed the crime.
Until a suspect has been charged with the homicide, the best way for you to get information about the case is to contact a Victim Services advocate or someone from Parents of Murdered Children, Inc. (POMC) who will assist you in communicating with the investigator.

During the investigation of the case, you may have questions, like:

Who is the main suspect?
Police will not release information on suspects during an investigation – in most cases.

When can I have access to the crime scene?
Police will install their own locks and yellow crime scene tape to certain areas. These will not be removed until the investigation is complete. This is to make sure that the crime scene is not disrupted or evidence destroyed.

When can I get back the victim’s property or clothing?
Police will probably keep most items until they determine if it is needed evidence. Later on, they may decide that some property has nothing to do with the crime and will release the items. Some property may never be returned if a case has not been solved. The best way to find out is to call the investigating officer.

Will the police need to talk to me?
The police will probably ask about the victim’s friends, enemies, family, business partners, and others. They may also ask questions that may seem strange to you. If you don’t understand why someone is asking a question, ask him or her to explain it to you.

What if I am receiving harassing phone calls from strangers or the suspects?
Call the police and report the harassment. Refer to the homicide investigation being done so law enforcement can respond appropriately.

Can I see photographs of the crime scene and police reports?
You have the right to see reports at the appropriate time during an investigation. Doing this can sometimes interfere with an investigation, so you might be told you cannot see the photos until later. Remember, the detectives who investigate a homicide case may have legitimate reasons for withholding information from you.

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The Role of the Prosecutor

What does the prosecutor do?
The prosecutor is a public official who conducts criminal prosecutions in court on behalf of the state.

After law enforcement finishes their investigation, they give their reports to the prosecutor. The prosecutor then considers the evidence and decides how to handle the case. The prosecutor has four options:

  • To charge the suspect or suspects with the crime.
  • To decline to charge the suspect(s).
  • To defer the decision until more information is received from further investigation.
  • To present the case to the Grand Jury (see below).

The prosecutor can answer questions about the legal proceedings for you and explain what the legal codes mean.

How long will the case last?
Although each case is different, you should prepare yourself and your family for a long process.

For example, even if the police catch a suspect right away, the prosecution of the suspect might take up to a year or more. All homicide convictions are usually appealed by the defense and this can also delay the end of t he prosecution. Many survivors often feel like they are forced to relive the loss of their loved one during this time.

What does the Grand Jury do?
The Grand Jury is a group of up to 23 citizens who make the decision to charge (“indict”) a suspect or suspects in certain cases. According to the law in Minnesota, an indictment from the Grand Jury is necessary to prosecute all first degree murder cases.

The Grand Jury will hear evidence, ask questions, and decide:

  • To indict (charge) the suspect/s for murder in the first degree, OR
  • To indict for a lesser charge (murder in the second degree, murder in the third degree), OR
  • To not indict at all

All Grand Jury hearings are closed to the public. Only the Grand Jury members, prosecutors, and witnesses are allowed to attend. In order to have an indictment, a majority (12 people) of the Grand Jury must vote for it.

Although family members or significant others may be called to testify before the Grand Jury, all testimony is secret, and no one is allowed to listen to the proceedings.

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The Role of the Medical Examiner
Law Enforcement and the Medical Examiner’s Office share the responsibility of notifying next of kin. Either one may contact you first.

The Medical Examiner’s job is to:

  • determine the identity of the homicide victim
  • contact the next of kin
  • investigate the death
  • certify the cause of death

Viewing the Body
You have the right to view the body of your loved one. Every family deals with their grief in different ways and this may or may not be important to you. You can request photos to be held until you feel you are ready to see them. You and your family do not have to view the body at all, except for identification purposes. This is a personal choice.

Personal Items/Evidence
Articles of clothing and personal items may be considered evidence and may not be available to you until after an investigation is completed. When an investigation lasts a long time or remains unsolved, personal items may not be returned immediately. Hospitals may also have some personal items that belonged to your loved one – check with them right away to claim them.

Medical Reports
The Medical Examiner’s Office will not release any medical reports to you. They will only release them to the County Attorney’s Office. If you have questions, you should contact the investigating officer or the victim advocate handling your case.

Death Certificates
The length of time it takes to get a death certificate may depend on the investigation. It should take about 3 to 4 weeks to get copies of a death certificate. There is a cost for each copy. Contact the county office in which the death occurred for copies of the certificate.

Olmsted County
(507) 285-8046
Recorder’s Office
Government Center
151 SE 4th St.
Rochester, MN 55904

Dodge County
(507) 635-6250
Recorder’s Office
Courthouse
Mantorville, MN 55955

Fillmore County
(507) 765-4701
Auditor’s Office
Courthouse
Preston, MN 55965

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Dealing with the Media

  • You have the right to say “no” to an interview.
  • You have the right to select the spokesperson or advocate of your choice.
  • You have the right to select the time and location of all interviews.
  • You have the right to request a specific reporter.
  • You have the right to release a written statement through a spokesperson instead of having an interview.
  • You have the right to exclude children from interviews.
  • You have the right to refuse to answer any questions that make you uncomfortable or any questions you think are inappropriate.
  • You have the right to know the direction the story will take, before the story about the victim and your family is reported.
  • You have the right to review how you are quoted in the story, before the story is reported.
  • You have the right to refuse to attend a press conference. You may choose to speak to one reporter at a time, or to not speak at all.
  • You have the right to have a correction published when inaccurate information is reported.
  • You have the right to ask to omit from publication or broadcast any photographs, videotape, or statements that you find offensive or disturbing.
  • You have the right to keep your photograph out of publication. You also have the right to have your videotaped image distorted electronically, to maintain your privacy.
  • You have the right to have photos returned when given to the press to use. Make sure you get the name of the reporter and his/her assurance your photo will be returned.
  • You have the right to completely give your side of the story.
  • You have the right to file a formal complaint against any r eporter.
  • You have the right to grieve in privacy.
  • You have the right at all times to be treated with dignity and respect by the media.

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