Legally Weird - The FindLaw Legal Curiosities Blog

Guard Puts Murder Suspect, Trial Witness in Same Cell; Fight Ensues

The job of a jail guard shouldn't be too complicated -- make sure the inmates don't escape and don't hurt anyone. Oh and, if one inmate is testifying against another in a murder trial, maybe don't put them both in the same jail cell.

An Ohio guard didn't get that second piece of advice, apparently, and it didn't take long for the murder suspect and the witness against him to come to blows.

Cold-Cocking the Witness

The video footage from the cell shows murder suspect Markelus Carter attacking the unidentified witness and throwing the first punch before the other inmate puts Carter in a headlock and lands a few punches himself. Guards quickly broke up the fight and reported that the men were largely unharmed.

Allen County Sheriff Sam Crish told The Lima News that authorities are investigating the incident. Carter and the witness, another jail inmate, were mistakenly placed in the same cell during a break in Carter's murder trial. Carter is accused of killing Kenneth Warrington, who prosecutors say was having a relationship with Carter's ex-girlfriend.

Confronting the Witness

While the Sixth Amendment guarantees a criminal defendant's right to be confronted with the witnesses against him, this is normally achieved through cross-examination, not a right cross to the witness's face. The Confrontation Clause allows a defendant to question prosecution witnesses during trial, and may limit what out-of-court statements are allowed to be admitted into evidence.

And if you abuse the Confrontation Clause by, say, physically confronting a witness in a jail cell, that evidence may be admissible. Prosecutors played video of Carter's jail cell assault to the jury in his murder trial. I'm sure that went swimmingly for him.

And in this day and age when getting people to testify about crimes is difficult already, subjecting your witnesses to physical abuse is not the best look for law enforcement.

Follow FindLaw for Consumers on Facebook and Twitter (@FindLawConsumer).

Related Resources: