Sentencing Postponed for Convicted Utah Murderer Johnny Wall

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Sentencing Postponed

Sentencing has been postponed for former Utah pediatrician Johnny Wall who was convicted in March for the murder of his ex-wife. On September 27th 2011, cancer researcher Uta von Schwedler was found drowned in her bathtub with high levels of Xanax in her system and lacerations to her body. What was originally thought to be a suicide was later determined to be murder.

Son testifies against father

Although it was previously assumed that Schwedler had committed suicide, the son of Wall and Schwedler was suspicious of his father’s involvement in his mother’s death. He testified of Wall’s growing animosity toward Schwedler and was convinced she had no signs of depression that would lead to suicide. The son who was just 17 years old at the time of his mother’s death, pleaded with authorities to further investigate his father. In April 2013 Johnny Wall was arrested and charged with the murder of Uta von Schwedler.

Convicted by a Jury

2 years after his arrest, Johnny Wall’s case went to trial. After over 6 hours of deliberation, Wall was convicted with first-degree murder by a twelve person jury in March 2015. Following the hearing, jurors stated a few reasons behind their vote: the suicide scene that appeared staged, Wall’s questionable interviews with police, and testimonies from the son about Wall’s post-divorce bitterness toward Schwedler.

Not always as cut-and-dried as it seems

Wall’s attorney requested the delay of sentencing amid protests from Schwedler’s family. Although he declined to give any information as to the approach to be made in the appeal, previous arguments from the defense debated the farfetched story of a staged suicide and lack of evidence at the scene. The new sentencing date is set for July 2015.
A person facing first-degree murder is looking at a high probability of life in prison. Before carrying out such a sentence, there shouldn’t be a shadow of a doubt of the convicted person’s guilt. An experienced criminal defense attorney will know this and work hard to ensure a fair trial.

DUI Automobile Homicide for Man Involved in High-Speed Pursuit

DUI automobile homicide after high-speed pursuit

Photo: Public Domain

A man arrested last May after a crash that killed the three other passengers in his vehicle pleaded guilty to DUI automobile homicide on Friday, March 27. One of the passengers was the driver’s girlfriend, and the others were juveniles.

Attempting to Flee Always a Bad Idea

Trying to flee from police officers always makes things worse. At the very least, it adds additional felony charges onto what might have been simple misdemeanors had the suspect chosen not to flee. However, for Jonathan Ulises Analco-Cruz, 24, attempting to flee led to a high-speed crash that landed him with multiple counts of DUI automobile homicide.

According to KSL News, on May 17, 2014, an officer attempted to pull over Cruz for doing 60 mph in a 35 mph zone at Salt Lake City International Airport. Cruz accelerated with erratic lane changes as he sped toward eastbound I-80, at which point court documents state that the officer ended the pursuit for public safety reasons.

However, near the I-215 interchange, Cruz apparently lost control of his vehicle and rolled it several times. A reconstruction of the incident indicated that Cruz was going 103 mph when he lost control. Cruz was found at the scene in critical condition. His girlfriend, Michaela Martin, 18, was killed on the crash, as were two male juveniles, ages 17 and 14.

Cruz’s blood-alcohol level was 0.21, almost three times the Utah legal limit of 0.08, and THC was found in his system. Court records indicate that an arrest warrant had been issued for Cruz just nine days earlier for failing to pay a fine and driving infractions.

Cruz pleaded guilty to two counts of DUI automobile homicide and failure to stop at an officer’s command, all second degree felonies.

When a DUI Misdemeanor Becomes a DUI Automobile Homicide Felony

As stated at the beginning of this post, attempting to flee is always a bad idea. Had Cruz consented to be pulled over, he would’ve most likely received a speeding ticket and a DUI charge, a class B misdemeanor provided he didn’t injure anyone or hadn’t been convicted before. Class B misdemeanors are punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

Instead, Cruz attempted to flee and killed three people in the process. Now he has three second degree felonies he is facing. A single second degree felony is punishable by up to fifteen years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

The most important thing to remember is not to take your changes attempting to flee from police if you are driving under the influence. However, if you or someone you know has already been charged with DUI automobile homicide charges, don’t leave the potential of losing fifteen years of your life in the hands of a public defender. Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney who will look out for your best interests.

Police Suspend Rape Investigation at University of Virginia

Police suspend rape investigation at University of Virginia

Photo: BlueSalix/Wikimedia Commons

In the explosive wake of a Rolling Stone article in November 2014, police in Charlottesville, Virginia, have announced that they are suspending the rape investigation discussed at length in the Rolling Stone article. The article was about a woman who claimed to have been gang raped at a fraternity party at the University of Virginia; however, investigators have uncovered contradictory information. In addition, Rolling Stone has been criticized for their handling of the rape investigation story.

Rape Investigation, Journalistic Sensationalism, or Both?

According to a Miami Herald Associated Press article, the alleged victim in the rape investigation, known only as “Jackie,” told Rolling Stone magazine that during her first semester at the University of Virginia in 2012, she went on a date with a classmate known only as “Drew” who later lured her into a secluded room at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house where she was raped by seven fraternity brothers.

Between the AP article and a Los Angeles Times report, there is a discrepancy as to when the university first heard of the rape. The AP article says the story first came to light in May of 2013 when Jackie was in a dean’s office on an unrelated academic matter. The Times stated that “Jackie” reported a separate incident of being attacked by four men on campus in April of 2014 to a dean and campus police. During this meeting, she supposedly also told them about the alleged rape in 2012. According to Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo, police found inconsistencies in Jackie’s account of the attack from the four men in 2014 but that she did have an abrasion on her head.

Regardless of when the story was first related to university officials, what seems to be consistent with both dates is that Jackie stated she didn’t want to push for a rape investigation regarding the 2012 fraternity rape incident. Even after the story broke in Rolling Stone in November and University of Virginia President Teresa A. Sullivan asked law enforcement to look into the alleged assault, investigators were forced to proceed without cooperation from Jackie.

While they were working on the rape investigation, several other inconsistencies came forward which led Charlottesville police to announce that they were suspending (but not closing entirely) the investigation on Monday, March 23. Longo stated that campus deans, fraternities, employees, and even friends of Jackie provided documents and statements which didn’t support Jackie’s claims.

In the Rolling Stone article, entitled “A Rape on Campus,” Jackie said she told three friends about the assault and that two of them told her not to report the incident to the police. However, the friends told the Associated Press that the exact opposite was true. They said they had insisted that Jackie contact the police, but she had refused.

In addition, in the course of the rape investigation, it was discovered that contrary to Jackie’s statement, there was no party at the Phi Kappa Psi house the night of the alleged rape. The classmate Jackie referred to as “Drew” was contacted, but it was discovered that he was not only a member of a different fraternity but claimed to not even know Jackie.

“That doesn’t mean that something terrible did not happen to Jackie,” Longo said at a news conference on Monday. “I can’t prove that something didn’t happen.” He went on to say that while the investigation wasn’t officially closed, investigators were “not able to conclude to any substantive degree than an incident consistent with the facts in [the Rolling Stone] article” had occurred.

Damning to Future Rape Investigations?

After the publication of the article in Rolling Stone, several critics stepped forward to voice their concerns over not only questionable reporting but also damages that this story could cause to future rape investigations. One of the biggest issues from a journalistic standpoint was Rolling Stone’s decision to not contact the accused in the case for their side of the story.

Rolling Stone published a letter from Managing Editor Will Dana on Dec. 5 detailing some of the inconsistencies in Jackie’s story but saying that she still stood by it. Dana said that in light of some of this new information, they realized they were in error in not attempting to contact the allegedly guilty parties.

The story also had a negative impact on the University of Virginia, which was accused of having a rampant culture of sexual violence. University President Sullivan banned social activities at fraternities after the article was published. These activities were reinstated after the organizations agreed to much stricter rules and regulations of the social activities. In light of the new information, it has been reported that these new rules and regulations will be re-evaluated.

Many rape survivor advocates say the article and subsequent rape investigation has set the cause back considerably, given the fact that often women who claim rape are already not taken seriously by law enforcement and the general public.

According to a statement from Phi Kappa Psi, the fraternity “is now exploring its legal options to address the extensive damage caused by Rolling Stone.”