A Maine court has decided to split the domestic violence murder trials against a mother and a father for their roles in the death of their daughter.
Here's why it matters, and why split trials for co-defendants is important.
Mother and Father Accused of Murdering Daughter in Domestic Violence Scenario
According to court documents, back on February 25, 2018, Julio Carrillo made a 911 call to report his 10-year-old stepdaughter, Marissa, was bleeding and barely breathing. At the hospital, the girl died.
Julio and his wife, Sharon, both admitted to abusing Marissa daily and then trying to make her death look like an accident. They were both arrested and charged with murder.
Since then, though, Ms. Carrillo has claimed that she was also being abused by Mr. Carrillo and that he coerced her into admitting a role in their daughter's death. Ms. Carrillo's defense attorney says that she suffers from intellectual disabilities that make her “particularly susceptible to control and influence in domestic violence situations.”
Co-defendants in Criminal Trials
Because both husband and wife were on trial for criminal charges stemming from the same event, they're called co-defendants.
Typically, co-defendants are put on trial together because it's far more efficient for courts. In such a joint trial, prosecutors present evidence against both co-defendants in an attempt to show that there are no reasonable doubts that they both committed the charged crime.
Things get tricky, though, if one co-defendant raises the defense that they were not the one who committed the crime, and instead points their finger at their co-defendant. When this happens, many of the rules and most of the structure in the criminal justice system get skewed. Suddenly:
- There are three parties – the prosecutor, the defendant, and the other defendant who is accusing their co-defendant
- Juries have to decide which co-defendant to believe, rather than decide whether their side of the story is credible
- Both co-defendants are antagonistic, hurting their ability to defend against the criminal charge presented by the prosecutor
Because of this, Ms. Carrillo's defense lawyer asked the court to split the trials.
Maine Court Splits Trials for Co-defendants
Despite the additional work, the Waldo County Superior Court decided that Ms. Carrillo's defense strategy made it necessary to conduct separate trials for her and her husband. Even though it would mean that the prosecutor would present essentially the same criminal case twice, it would allow Ms. Carrillo to make her case without creating too much confusion with the jury and without presenting evidence that could be damning against her co-defendant, thereby ensuring both parents got the fair trial that they deserve.
WTB Law: Domestic Violence Defense Lawyers Serving Maine
Everyone deserves a fair trial, no matter how egregious the accusations that have been levied against them. In fact, criminal charges that are severe and that carry the harshest punishments only make it more important for a defendant to have a fair trial where they can raise the defenses and arguments that show their innocence.