The Choctaw Three: Criminal Ethics Case

Abstract

The Choctaw Three refers to Victoria Bell Banks, Medell Banks, and Dianne Bell Tucker, who were indicted and prosecuted in the great State of Alabama for the capital murder of a child that never existed. This case demonstrates what transpires when a prosecutor fails to adhere to the standards of the legal profession, especially the moral imperatives role. The case revealed that the DA did not offer appropriate protection to the citizens in Alabama or penalize offenders. Therefore, to prevent the occurrence of similar injustice, judges should consider the utilitarian approach for it provides the best outcome with least harm to the society and individuals.

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Moral Imperatives of the DA’s Profession

The moral imperative of the DA’s profession is to ensure the safety of citizens by seeking the truth without tampering zeal and human kindness in approaching legal tasks with humility and applying the standards set by law. The standards of the Criminal Justice System provide the functions of a prosecutor as an administrator of justice, an advocate, and an officer of the court (American Bar Association, 2016). In this view, the prosecutor must exercise sound discretion in the performance of his or her functions and seek justice instead of mere convictions. From this standards set, the prosecutor uses moral imperative while reviewing each arrest by the police and deciding whether there is enough evidence to pursue the charges in court (Pollock, 2014). In this case, the DA, Robert Keahey, viewed the evidence given by the concerned sheriff who saw that Victoria was pregnant when she was released from prison, but months later there were no signs of her being pregnant and no physical evidence of a baby.

Protection of Citizens of Alabama

The prosecutor’s role is to seek justice for people in given jurisdiction but not for the police or the victim (Pollock, 2014). In this case, the DA did not protect the citizens of the state of Alabama from criminals nor did they penalize offenders. The idea that the Choctaw three committed the crime they were indicted with is not just unlikely, but is completely impossible. The doctors did not only confirm that Victoria could not have been pregnant during the period, but the police also did not provide the body of the infant as evidence. Despite all these discrepancies, the case was filed in court, and the three were convicted. The prosecution shows that the DA has a lot of effect on charging criminals in a state, and in most instances, courts can decide cases in their favor for they regard their convictions as morally just.

Ethical and Moral Basis for the Decisions by the DA

The DA, Robert D. Keahey, either knew the principal defendant, Victoria Banks, was incapable of birthing the baby or he intentionally chose to ignore the evidence that would have exonerated her. Despite the fact that she had a tubal ligation in 1995, and the lack of a corpse, the DA without any moral basis disregarded any need for actual physical evidence. On the tubal ligation, the DA suggested that the fallopian tube surgery had reversed itself permitting pregnancy with regard to 1% of cases reported by medical experts. Prosecution evidence on the baby’s death came from Bonner, the boyfriend of Victoria, who claimed that Banks’ alleged to have gotten rid of the baby because she heard that Bonner was with another girlfriend in Mississippi. Besides, the DA disputed that the three were retarded, and thus, qualified to plead guilty. Usually, a court does not allow people with mental retardation to plead guilty to for they are incompetent (Scott, 2010). From the confession statements, the DA assured himself that he is morally certain that the defendant is both factually and legally guilty, and thus, the criminal punishment is morally just.

Ethical or Moral Basis for the Judge to Intercede

There are numerous known cases that have led to unjust convictions when in fact the victim is still alive. Such an error was commemorated on 25 March 1987 by the Nebraska governor who pardoned William Marion for the murder of a man, who emerged four years later alive after the 100th anniversary of his hanging (Sherrer, 2016). This case has a relation to the Choctaw case only that the alleged murder victim never existed. At the start of the case, when the three pleaded guilty to manslaughter so as to evade a possible death penalty, the judiciary had not distinguished itself. Though doubting the credibility and the veracity of the evidence, the judge accepted their pleas. Later, further analysis of the case by Judge McPhearson allowed consideration of medical outcome as new evidence, and thus, contradicted Victoria Banks’ testimony. Ultimately, the appeals prompted the appellate court to make an appropriate judgment and required the judges to provide their written submissions stating how the case manifests injustice.

From the utilitarian perspective, prosecuting the innocent has negative consequences on the society. As deontological perspective supports the actions of the prosecuting attorney, which resulted in the denial of justice, the judges should rather use the utilitarian approach in making the right decision. At the position of an ethical deliberation, it is important to detect specifically the ethical aspects at hand (Travis, 2014). Fundamentally, the dispute in the Choctaw case is about the arguments for the morality of a particular action but not for the morality of a particular principle. Making ethical choices requires the understanding of the ethical implications of an issue, as utilitarian perspective would stand by the principle of producing the best with the least harm.

References

American Bar Association. (2016). Criminal justice section standards: Prosecution function. Web.

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Pollock, J. (2014). Whatever happened to Atticus Finch? Lawyers as legal advocates and moral agents. In Braswell, M. C., McCarthy, B. L., & McCarthy, B. J. (Eds.), Justice, Crime, and Ethics (pp. 145-159). New York, NY: Routledge.

Scott, L. (2010). Handbook of correctional mental health. Washington DC, WA: American Psychiatric Publisher.

Sherrer, H. (2016). The tragedy of the Choctaw Three: Medell Banks Jrs.’ conviction for killing a non-existent child is thrown out as a “manifest injustice”. Web.

Travis, L. (2014). Criminal sentencing goals, practices, and ethics. In Braswell, M. C., McCarthy, B. L., & McCarthy, B. J. (Eds.), Justice, Crime, and Ethics (pp.171-180). New York, NY: Routledge.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, January 22). The Choctaw Three: Criminal Ethics Case. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/the-choctaw-three-criminal-ethics-case/

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StudyCorgi. 2021. "The Choctaw Three: Criminal Ethics Case." January 22, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/the-choctaw-three-criminal-ethics-case/.

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StudyCorgi. (2021) 'The Choctaw Three: Criminal Ethics Case'. 22 January.

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