A Cook County inmate was charged with solicitation of murder for hire after allegedly trying to hire a hitman to murder a witness in his upcoming trial on charges of criminal damage to property, telephone harassment, and criminal trespass. The hitman was, in fact, an undercover officer.
Chicago Solicitation of Murder
A person commits the crime of solicitation of murder if he “commands, encourages, or requests” another person to commit the offense of first degree murder. The defendant allegedly offered to pay the undercover officer $3,000 – $4,000 to have the witness killed.
A solicitation charge means that the underlying crime was never committed. Instead, the defendant was merely making the first step toward committing it. So determining whether the solicitation actually took place requires a thorough examination of the circumstances surrounding the commission of the alleged crime. Questions to be asked when crafting a defense to a charge of solicitation of murder include:
- Whether the ‘hitman’ initiated the subject of solicitation with the defendant. If the hitman initiated the conversation, it would show that the defendant never considered the idea of murdering the witness until he was approached.
- Whether conversations about the ‘hit’ were conducted in a public or private setting. If the conversations were in public, it makes it more likely that the defendant had no intention of following through, because there would be plenty of witnesses to his actions. Instead, he may have been engaging in talk to make himself look tough in jail, or wishful thinking.
- Whether the defendant had the means or ability to pay the hitman. If he did not, it would tend to show that he once again was just fantasizing and did not intend for the hit to take place.
- Whether the defendant ever said, “I want you to kill this witness.” Anything less than a specific statement of intent, such as, “It would really help my case if he died” or “God, I wish he were dead so he couldn’t testify!”, could be interpreted to be a case of wishful thinking.
- Whether the defendant ever specifically requested that the witness be killed, or whether he expressed a general desire for him to “be taken care of.” This type of statement could be interpreted to mean that the defendant simply wanted someone to scare the witness out of testifying.
Chicago Entrapment Defense
In these types of cases, it may also be possible for the defendant to successfully argue that the police entrapped him. Entrapment is an affirmative defense, which means that the burden is on the defendant to prove that he was entrapped.
A defendant is not guilty of the charged offense if he can prove that his conduct was “incited or induced by a public officer or employee…for the purpose of obtaining evidence for the prosecution of that person.”
Proving entrapment requires more than simply providing evidence that the officer provided the defendant an opportunity to commit the crime. Courts assume that most citizens will be able to resist the temptation to break the law. Instead, entrapment requires that the officer engaged in such egregious behavior that a normal, law-abiding citizen would be enticed to commit the underlying crime.
For example, in a case such as this, it would not be enough for the defendant to prove that the officer approached him and brought up killing the witness. It may be enough, however, if the officer continually approached the defendant, despite repeated statements that he did not want the witness killed. This would show that the defendant was initially unwilling to break the law, but caved after police badgering. Continue reading