Can You Prosecute Someone for Murdering a Dead Person Who Comes Back to Life Again?

The penultimate episode of Resurrection presented a fact pattern that would give most attorneys a migraine.

TwiceDeadHow do you prosecute someone who kidnaps and kills a victim who returned from the dead from 12 years earlier AND returns from the dead after being killed a second time?

And just to make things more interesting, the victim is two months pregnant.

Kidnapping is very straightforward to prove. Pursuant to Burns Ind. Code Ann. § 35-42-3-2, a person who knowingly removes another person by force or threat of force, commits a Level 6 felony. It is a level 5 felony if an automobile was used and a Level 3 felony if committed with a deadly weapon.

Rachael was taken by a sheriff deputy and two men in a car to a cabin in the woods. One of the future Defendants had both a gun and a knife. After the deputy and another presumptive defendant left, the final Defendant (Gary) threatened the victim with a knife and cut her cheek.

These facts show not just kidnapping, but also torture. If someone if murdered where torture has taken place, the state could seek life imprisonment or the death penalty. Burns Ind. Code Ann. § 35-50-2-9. There is also a big 1983 action against the deputy for his actions in the crime.

The murder charge is where things get funky. Gary the Defendant shot and killed Rachael in a fight while she was being held against her will. These facts should meet the requirements of Murder under Burns Ind. Code Ann. § 35-42-1-1(2), because she was shot and killed during a kidnapping.

There is no question she was killed and her body taken away by the coroner.

What legal effect does it have for her to be found alive walking along the road? You need a dead body in order for there to be a murder.

Let’s refer to the original Rachael as Rachel Prime, the first Rachael returned from the dead as Rachael Alpha and the third Rachael as Rachael Beta. However, they are all the same person.

Rachael Prime committed suicide while pregnant by driving off a bridge in 2001 or 2002. Rachael Alpha was a living woman who was pregnant. She was kidnapped and physically died. Provided that there is still a corpse of Rachael Alpha, it should not legally matter that Rachael Beta is alive. A DA could argue that a human being was killed while trying to escape a kidnapping, which resulted in her death. There would not be a sentence enhancement for killing a pregnant woman, because the fetus was not yet viable, a requirement under the code. However, kidnapping could be a sentence enhancement.

A defense attorney would argue no murder has taken place, because Rachael Beta is alive, absent a lot of emotional damage. DNA would match, memories and the fact the murdered victim would be alive in court by subpoena. However, the DA could produce the autopsy report of Rachael Alpha, complete with photos, and testimony from the medical examiner. At this point Rachael Alpha’s dead body would be legally relevant, but a judge would likely prohibit it being offered into evidence because of its prejudicial effect on a jury. However, it would be advisable to keep it available to counter possible defenses.

So for all of the lawyers out there, just be glad the dead do not keep coming back to life with new bodies after being killed a second time.

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Josh Gilliland

Josh Gilliland is a California attorney who focuses his practice on eDiscovery. Josh is the co-creator of The Legal Geeks, which has made the ABA Journal Top Blawg 100 Blawg for 2013 to 2016, the ABA Web 100 for Best Legal Blog and Podcast categories, and was nominated for Best Podcast for the 2015 Geekie Awards. Josh has presented at legal conferences and comic book conventions across the United States. He also ties a mean bow tie.