WASHINGTON, July 21, 2006 — Goodwin Procter LLP today announced a landmark decision reversing a first-degree murder conviction in the case of Lakeisha Wilson-Bey and Sckeena Marbury v. United States, in which Goodwin Procter represented defendant Sckeena Marbury on a pro bono basis.
In the ruling issued Thursday, July 20, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals — D.C.'s highest court — held that that the trial judge's jury instructions misstated the law by allowing the jury to find Ms. Marbury guilty of first-degree premeditated murder without deciding that she intended to kill anyone.
Prior to yesterday's decision, a defendant who assisted in (or "aided and abetted") a killing in the nation's capital could be convicted of first-degree premeditated murder so long as the killing was a "natural and probable consequence" of his or her actions. In the decision, the court held that this rule was contrary to long established principles of criminal law and numerous decisions from other state and federal courts. It held that an aider and abettor can only be convicted of premeditated murder if he or she specifically intends to kill someone.
The three judges who originally heard the appeal in September 2004 had reached the opposite conclusion. But last fall, the court took the unusual step of calling for a new "en banc" argument before all nine judges on the Court. Yesterday's decision in favor of Ms. Marbury was unanimous.