More news on: Prof. Frank Bowman

Professor Bowman Discusses Spousal Privilege in Murder Case

February 12th, 2016

Prof. Frank Bowman

The Kansas City Star and The Daily Beast recently quoted Professor Frank Bowman in two articles regarding the same case. The case involves the marriage of a triple murder suspect to the case’s key witness in Kansas City. The witness, Shellana Victoria A. Davis, married the defendant, Joseph L. Nelson, on Dec. 7, which could make a conviction much harder to secure. Professor Bowman discussed the many hurdles the prosecution will have to go through to convict Nelson and still use Davis’ testimony.

First, Davis could be criminally liable because she confessed to helping cover up the murders in her testimony. She could use her Fifth Amendment right to avoid incriminating herself by not testifying, or the prosecution could ask the judge to grant her immunity in this case. Spousal privilege, which allows a spouse to decline to testify against the other spouse about events during or before the marriage, could also come into play in this case. The only way the prosecution could void the spousal privilege is to prove the marriage is fake and only happened in order to create this privilege.

Professor Bowman said, “Even if that marriage had all the bells and whistles like a marriage certificate — if it was meant to bar her from testifying then the privilege doesn’t apply.”

In Missouri, however, spousal privilege doesn’t exist in cases when a murder victim was under 18. In this case, two of the people killed were under 18. Professor Bowman said two separate trials could potentially be conducted for the minors and the adult victim. The final way a conviction could be brought is if the judge believes the marriage was engineered, the prosecution could still use Davis’ original witness statements against Nelson.

Tags: ,