Seventeen years ago the state let David Carpenter walk out of jail, saying conflicting witness statements and a lack of evidence was not enough to take him to trial on a murder charge. This week, Carpenter was arrested again in Jacksonville on the same murder charge and police are relying on jailhouse snitches to put the case together this time, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union.
Police said Carpenter was in jail on unrelated Duval County drug charges and was boasting about the 1994 murder of Joseph Allen Watson, according to the newspaper. Carpenter had long been a person of interest in the case, police told the newspaper.
In late 1994, police found the body of a 39-year-old man in a trail of blood near a wooded area. Witnesses at the time told police Carpenter said he traded some speakers to the man for crack cocaine that turned out to be fake. Carpenter said he went back to the man and stabbed him, according to the newspaper.
Yet shortly before a trial date, the state dropped the charges and let Carpenter go.
Carpenter has been in and out of jail since, arrested 25 times on various charges, according to the newspaper. He had just been sentenced to 18 months on a drug charge and was in jail when they added the murder charge this week. Detectives would not say who Carpenter told recently and how it got back to police, but that will be key if and when this case makes it to trial. Statements and accusations from other inmates can be dicey for the state. They are in the jail because they’ve been arrested for something and, while that does not make them guilty, there is the underlying current that what they say on the stand could benefit their own situation.
And that’s true. Prosecutors cut deals all the time to reduce sentences in exchange for cooperation. For example, police may send someone facing drug charges back to where he or she bought the drugs, this time with a wire, to try to reel in a bigger fish.
But the state will have to prove they learned something significant with this new information – something so significant that without it, prosecutors could not charge Carpenter with murder at any other point in the past 17 years. If the only change is another inmate says he heard Carpenter brag about the killing in jail, expect defense attorneys to make that point loud and clear.
Our Jacksonville criminal defense law firm been involved in dozens of cases with jailhouse snitches and is adept at pointing out potential motives for people to say what they say. If you need a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm, PA at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation. Our Duval County criminal lawyer is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.