It’s appalling that two New York City cops who did hits for the Mob are going to walk free. There seems to be no doubt about their actual guilt, but they were tried on federal racketeering-conspiracy charges covered by a five-year statute of limitations, and the murders were committed in the 1980s and 1990s.
It seems from press accounts that Federal prosecutors made an arrogant blunder by insisting on charging the two detectives under RICO rather than letting state prosecutors charge them with murder, which carries no statute of limitations. Whether he was right or wrong on the law as applied to the facts of the case — the key question is whether recent drug activity in Las Vegas was part of the same conspiracy that included the murders in Brooklyn one or two decades ago — I admire Judge Weinstein’s unwillingness to bend the law to produce the socially desirable outcome.
What the New York Times story doesn’t explain is why the murderers can’t now be tried on the state homicide charges. I would have thought that, under the “two sovereigns” doctrine, double jeopardy wouldn’t apply. (The doctrine holds that someone can be tried both Federally and locally for the same act, because the act constitutes two different crimes: one against Federal law, the other against state law. So their technical innocence of racketeering conspiracy under Federal law doesn’t protect them from being tried for homicide by the sovereign State of New York.)
Can some reader learned in the criminal law explicate for us?
Update Of course, those who truly believe that “innocent until proven guilty” ought to be a principle of moral judgment as well as a principle of law, and who have been excoriating those who call the soldiers who committed the Haditha massacre “murderers” and the Republican leadership in Congress “crooks” because they haven’t been tried yet, will think me wrong to assert that Eppolito and Caracappa are factually guilty of crimes of which they are still, and may always be, legally innocent. Or at least they ought to think so, for consistency’s sake. Of course, if they said so, everyone would, properly, laugh at them.