"We have breaking news to report to you," a talk-radio host announced. "Believe it or not, a jury in St. Paul, Minnesota found Aaron Foster NOT GUILTY for the murder of Barbara Winn. Twenty-seven years after the family fought for justice . . . a murderer, in their mind, Aaron Foster, walked free. . . . A shocking verdict for court watchers."
To my surprise, it was a shocking verdict to me, though I had only a passing knowledge of the case—woman says Get out of my life to abusive partner, who, rather than comply, takes her life. The setup was as familiar as the Simpson and Peterson cases. As was that queasy feeling in my gut that comes when I sense a miscarriage of justice.
Listening to the broadcast announcement of a not-guilty verdict from the other side of the country, I could only imagine the reaction of the victim's family, her children, and others present in the courtroom. No one knows the shock of hearing "Not Guilty" better than surviving family members. They'll tell you the effect is at once as dizzying and as sobering as a slap across the face.
And he didn't stop there. Looks like he had to create a reason for fleeing with the weapon, so he told police that as Barbara bled to death she supposedly said, "Get rid of the gun."
So that's all it was, Aaron Foster would have us believe—just an unlucky guy trying to fulfill an ex's last request. . . . Come on. A woman is dying, so instead of calling for help, he runs to hide the gun? And what possible reason would Barbara have to tell him to dispose of the weapon? Think about it: Why would a woman who had fatally injured herself be concerned with police finding the weapon she'd used? There is no law against a person taking his or her own life. It's a practical matter. A dead person cannot be prosecuted.
Yes, it's true that there is no statute of limitation on murder. But there is a Constitutional limitation on how many times any state can try someone for the same crime. The State of Minnesota had one shot. The government missed. Maybe prosecutors had rolled the dice, taking the "he might beat the rap" tack—prepared to be pacified by taking Foster on the hellacious ride of a murder trial.
When a case is weak or a prosecution is made in bad faith, the Constitution is there to shield the individual whose life and/or liberty is at stake. It might not seem right or fair that criminals are sometimes insulated from accountability by laws that occasionally leave victims hanging.