Death of former Colt results in murder charges, 27 years later

As we scour the Internet for something better to write about than whether a somewhat underperforming top-ten draft pick might have a better chance of holding onto his job if he wasn’t worried about people who are writing about the possibility that he might lose it, we found an interesting article about a former Colts player who recently died.

Michael Woods joined the Colts — the Baltimore Colts — as a second-round pick in the 1978 draft. 

In 1982, a man named Victor Gomez shot Woods in the back of the head, leaving him paralyzed.

With Woods’ testimony, Gomez was convicted of the crime, and Gomez spent six years in jail.

Now, however, Gomez is charged with Woods’ murder.

On May 28, Woods died at age 54 of a kidney infection.  But because the infection allegedly traces to the paralysis, which allegedly traces to the lead slug Gomez fired into Woods’ spine 27 years ago, Gomez now faces murder charges.

Whether a conviction results is largely academic; the 44-year-old Gomez currently is serving a prison term of 41-to-85 years for sexual assault.

Still, justice should at all times be done, and if a shooting ultimately claims a person’s life, the person who pulled the trigger should be prosecuted for murder — regardless of the amount of time that passes between the entry of the bullet and the ending of the victim’s life.
 

19 responses to “Death of former Colt results in murder charges, 27 years later

  1. Hey Florin, you’re a lawyer, don’t you think this case stretches the concept of “causation, but for?”

  2. Wouldn’t this be considered this double jeopardy? It’s not the normally the way we think of double jeopardy, but he was already tried for this act (pulling the trigger).
    My real question is why did he only get 6 years to begin with? Seems like a light sentence for shooting someone in the head.

  3. “BeerCur says:
    July 12, 2009 4:07 PM
    Wouldn’t this be considered this double jeopardy? It’s not the normally the way we think of double jeopardy, but he was already tried for this act (pulling the trigger). ”
    No. He was charged with assault or attempted murder (don’t know which)…..now he will be charged with murder. Two different sets of charges.
    There is no such thing as a charge of “pulling the trigger.”

  4. TFBuckFutter says:
    “There is no such thing as a charge of “pulling the trigger.””
    From Wiki:
    There are three essential protections included in the double jeopardy principle, which are:
    being retried for the same crime after an acquittal
    retrial after a conviction
    being punished multiple times for the same offense
    As I understand it, INAL, an Act such as pulling a trigger and hitting someone can be tried only once. For example, if a DA prosecutes a person for attempted murder and that person is found innocent, he can’t turn around and prosecute that person again for assault (Same crime), can he?

  5. He was first charged with attempted murder which requires a showing of certain elements and a certain state of mind.
    The charge of murder requires a different showing of elements and different state of mind.
    Thus, it is not double jeopardy

  6. “BeerCur says:
    July 12, 2009 5:36 PM
    From Wiki:
    There are three essential protections included in the double jeopardy principle, which are:
    being retried for the same crime after an acquittal
    retrial after a conviction
    being punished multiple times for the same offense
    As I understand it, INAL, an Act such as pulling a trigger and hitting someone can be tried only once. For example, if a DA prosecutes a person for attempted murder and that person is found innocent, he can’t turn around and prosecute that person again for assault (Same crime), can he?”
    It doesn’t matter. The charges are different. If the guy went into a coma for ten years, you think they would wait ten years to charge him for attempted murder to see IF he died? He goes up on attempted murder charges, and then if the victim dies, he faces murder charges. Same incident, different charges. In that incident, he would have committed murder, it just took a long time for the victim to die.
    Not sure a movie is the best source of legal information, but that is exactly what happened in the movie Fracture. Guy shoots his wife, and escapes attempted murder charges, only to be brought up on murder charges when she eventually died. Not double jeopardy because they are different charges even though they relate to the same incident. Granted, they don’t charge you with both attempted murder AND murder when you kill someone, because the greater charge supercedes the lesser one. That’s not the case this time. I’m trying to find if there is legal precedence, and if I come up with any, I will post them. However, I have other things I’m working on at the moment.

  7. http://straylight.law.cornell.edu/nyctap/I94_0005.htm
    http://patterico.com/2007/05/02/fracture-murder-implied-malice-and-the-la-riots/
    Just a couple of quick sources. The issue has arisen before, and it seems as though it’s considered not to be double jeopardy, however, there also appears to be an artificial statute-of-limitations on it, but that is based on individual state law. As pointed out in the first one, if the victim dies within a prescribed period of time, then upgraded charges can be brought, regardless of conviction.
    The only real arguments the guy in this case would have is that a) It’s been beyond a reasonable “delayed death” period (assuming Ohio has never installed a specific provision) and b) having prosecution prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the kidney infection was a result of the attack.
    It’ll be an interesting one to see play out.

  8. I think causation is a larger issue than double jeopardy though this does seem to violate some parts of double jeopardy. The prosecution has had its opportunity to prosecute any crimes that have arisen out of these actions and sets of circumstances but of course the victim wasn’t dead yet so the crime wasn’t complete until then so that final circumstance is different.
    Sportslawyer is being tricky since the state of mind required for attempted murder is essentially the same as most homicide charges.
    The only additional element is that the victim is dead, Jim.
    Maybe they should also try the health care workers as accesories to murder since their level of care allowed for the kidney infection to occur and advance as well.
    Look, the defendant tried to kill the victim and didn’t; unfortunately he wasn’t punished very harshly for his crime. Trying circus act prosecutions afterwards is not going to fix this; it just makes a further joke of the court system and convinces everyone that prosecutor’s have no sense of balance, legal discretion or constitutional restraint. The only mode is over-prosecute all-the-time.
    But this will give the DA some nice media face time looking tough on crime for what might be an election year for him or her.
    I feel sorry for the victim’s family who weren’t served well by the justice system in the past and get to go through all this crap again. My sincere sympathies to them in what is always a difficult loss under even the best of circumstances. Here is a chance for the NFLPA to step up and genuinely help a former player’s family that may truly need assistance.

  9. Lawyers fishing in the shallow end of the pond. Is that what they teach in law school these days.
    There is no case here – move along their is nothing to see.

  10. I think we can all agree that if the piece of shit that shot him had reformed his life, and was a productive member of society, the prosecutor’s office wouldn’t be considering this. However, since he’s still a piece of shit, it is a nice way to get some press, and make the midwestern town feel safer. Low risk, high reward.

  11. “zod says: July 12, 2009 7:45 PM
    Lawyers fishing in the shallow end of the pond. Is that what they teach in law school these days.
    There is no case here – move along their is nothing to see.”
    Idiot. This would come from the DA’s office, not a personal injury attorney. It goes with what the law states.

  12. I certainly agree with the consensus this Gomez guy seems to have earned his long stay in jail and this new case is just press exploitation. I also agree the Woods’ family should be well taken care of by the powers that be. A tragic story.

  13. Quote:
    maskedman says:
    July 12, 2009 9:01 PM
    “zod says: July 12, 2009 7:45 PM
    Lawyers fishing in the shallow end of the pond. Is that what they teach in law school these days.
    There is no case here – move along their is nothing to see.”
    Idiot. This would come from the DA’s office, not a personal injury attorney. It goes with what the law states.
    ……
    Last time, I checked DAs (plural, not possesive) all had law degrees which I believe puts them in the lawyer class.
    I’m not sure what you’re point is.

  14. zod says: July 12, 2009 10:07 PM
    Last time, I checked DAs (plural, not possesive) all had law degrees which I believe puts them in the lawyer class.
    I’m not sure what you’re point is.

    I love it when someone “corrects” something and then makes a fundamental mistake like using “you’re” as a possessive.
    “Corrects” is in quotes because the OP is correct. It’s the District Attorney’s Office, as all charges are technically filed on behalf of the actual District Attorney via Assistant or Deputy DAs.

  15. toasty981 says:
    July 12, 2009 11:35 PM
    zod says: July 12, 2009 10:07 PM
    Last time, I checked DAs (plural, not possesive) all had law degrees which I believe puts them in the lawyer class.
    I’m not sure what you’re point is.

    I love it when someone “corrects” something and then makes a fundamental mistake like using “you’re” as a possessive.
    “Corrects” is in quotes because the OP is correct. It’s the District Attorney’s Office, as all charges are technically filed on behalf of the actual District Attorney via Assistant or Deputy DAs.
    Don’t forgot Zod’s original statement was “There is no case here – move along “THEIR” is nothing to see.”
    “THEIR” is nothing to see? Possesive? Missing an “s” there in possessive big fella. And he’s ripping, incorrectly, another guy’s spelling? Zoddy – if you want to play schoolmarm, you need to clean up your own s**t first. The point that was being made is this isn’t ambulance chasing, looking for money, it’s an attempt to secure justice for a family that just buried a loved one that may have lived a long life, certainly would have had a better life, if not for the bullet that this scumbag put into the back of his head. Think about it as if it was someone you cared for and then think about the cowardice that goes along with shooting a man in the back of his head. They may not get a conviction, but at least they are trying to do right by the Woods family. I have my tax dollars wasted on far, far worse.

  16. you guys in law school can argue all you want over the technicalities.
    morally, the original sentence was a farce. six years for paralyzing someone by shooting them in the head? i’m sorry, but that should be near a life-term, if not a life-term. why? there is no plausible defense for shooting someone in the back of the head. and based on the fact the guy is in jail for sexual assualt right now, it is obvious that Gomez was going to commit another crime anyway. Some girl was assaulted because this guy wasn’t put away properly the first time. :thumbdown:

  17. First, to address some comments about the 27-year delay in bringing the murder charge:
    “But if the victim lingers for a substantial period of time, there may arise a question whether the death came at a time too remote from the injury to say for certain that the accused caused it. The common law adhered to a principle known as the ‘year-and-a-day’ rule whereby an accused could not be convicted of murder if the victim lived for a year and one day after the injury. 3 Katz & Giannelli, Criminal Law (1996) 301, Chapter 96.3.
    This rule is not followed in Ohio. See State v. Sandridge (C.P. 1977), 5 Ohio Op. 3d 419, 365 N.E.2d 898 (indictment charging the defendant with murdering the victim, who died 23 months after the assault, would not be dismissed under the common law rule). Today, the length of time between the act and the result is only one consideration in assessing the prosecution’s showing of proximate cause.”
    State v. Beaver, 119 Ohio App. 3d 385, 394-95, 695 N.E.2d 332, 338-39 (1997). (As an aside, I think practically all states have abolished the common law “year-and-a-day” rule.)
    As to the comments about double jeopardy, actually as a general rule a conviction of a lesser included offense would preclude subsequent prosecution for a greater offense. However, murder is the one exception to this rule observed practically everywhere. See, e.g., State v. Leonard, 104 Ohio St. 3d 54, 80, 818 N.E.2d 229, 262 (2004) (“[T]he Double Jeopardy Clause ‘does not preclude a defendant from being separately punished for an aggravated murder and for felonies involved in that murder.'”) (quoting State v. Coley, 93 Ohio St.3d 253, 264, 754 N.E.2d 1129, 1143 (2001)). This case illustrates why.
    As to the comments about 6 years being way too lenient a sentence, I agree. Without more information about what happened in 1982, I can’t say for sure what happened. It may have been that there was a plea agreement, or maybe Gomez didn’t have a prior record, or something else. I don’t practice in Ohio so I’m not totally familiar with their sentencing practices, but if you look at Ohio Rev. Code Ann. section 2929.14, it appears possible that a sentence from 3-10 years is at least theoretically possible for a charge such as aggravated assault (which could have been charged instead of attempted murder).

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