Third Party Culprit
After taking the case, Merritt Schnipper, Tamik Kirkland's attorney, added another very important issue to Mr. Kirkland's motion for new trial regarding the trial judge's denial of Mr. Kirkland's right to present third party culprit evidence to the jury. This is not a situation in which Mr. Kirkland gave evidence to the Commonwealth. In fact, Mr. Kirkland has never given any kind of evidence to any police officer, prosecutor or Court, in any case. This is a situation in which the prosecution had evidence in their possession, from their own investigation, that shows another person may have committed the crime Mr. Kirkland was being accused of, and Mr. Kirkland was denied his right to present that evidence to the jury.
By law, a way in which a defendant may seek to raise a reasonable doubt about his/her guilt is to present evidence that the crime was committed by another person (Third Party Culprit). This defense is used in most criminal cases (especially murder cases) that go to trial. It's obvious that the crime was committed by "someone". So, if the evidence exists, it's very important that the jury is made aware that the crime could have very well been committed by someone other than the defendant. To deny a defendant the right to present this defense is to deny the defendant the right to defend him/herself in court.
The presentation of this evidence was extremely important in Mr. Kirkland's case. Not only would it have raised serious doubt as to Mr. Kirkland being the person that committed the crime, but this evidence could have also been necessary to impeach and discredit the statements of Mr. Kirkland's co-defendant, who became Commonwealth's evidence in this case.
To Mr. Kirkland's trial attorneys credit, they did attempt to pursue the third party culprit defense, but the prosecutors fought against it. His trial attorneys left out some very important facts that the judge could have considered when making her decision on whether she would allow Mr. Kirkland to present this defense. Even though the evidence still consisted of all of the "connecting links", that are required by law to present this defense, the judge erroneously ruled in the prosecutor's favor.
That's another violation of the due process rights that were supposed to have been guaranteed to Mr. Kirkland by the Federal and State constitutions. This error is due to the combination of ineffective assistance of counsel, judicial error and new evidence. As you read about all of the injustices throughout this site you will see that Mr. Kirkland did not receive a fair trial. Mr. Kirkland must be granted a new trial in order for justice to be served.