Quincy District Court arraigned Michael Ritchie and his teenage daughter Jennifer this week after their arrests on charges of larceny under $250 and larceny over $250. According to an article in the Globe, a Quincy woman called the Quincy Police Tuesday after seeing a woman walk away from her home carrying a package that had been delivered earlier. The resident apparently told the police that the woman got into a white pickup truck which drove away.
The Quincy police "spotted a white Ford pickup truck with an American flag [decal] nearby and spoke with the driver . . . Michael Ritchie." Ritchie admitted to having been in the neighborhood from which the package was taken, but said he "was just visiting his daughter Jennifer." The police say that during this conversation, they saw a package in the back of the truck. Apparently this turned out to be the missing package. When the police questioned Jennifer, she admitted to stealing that package as well as others in the neighborhood.
The notoriety of these two defendants garnered national attention in an ABC News story covering the topic. The title of the story was "Holiday Grinches Steal Christmas in Mass." Quincy Police Captain John Dougan is quoted as saying that package thieves have been following delivery trucks and taking the packages from doorsteps before the recipients get home. The ABC story reported that the police caught Michael Ritchie with a set of speakers and a series of CDs. At Jennifer Ritchie's home, the police found allegedly stolen baby clothes and Hello Kitty items intended as gifts.
The Ritchies are not drawing much sympathy from the stories. In fact, a comment following the Globe story begins "Death Penalty!" That's obviously a bit strong, but it conveys an understandable human reaction to these allegations. No matter how one feels about the acts described, however, the actors are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. In fact, the more despicable the charge the more important it is for the rights of the accused to be protected. This starts with experience criminal defense counsel.
A few things that counsel likely will explore:
1. Did the woman that reported the theft describe the truck as a Ford with an American Flag decal? If so, that may be specific enough to justify the stop of the truck. If not, the stop may not be justified and everything discovered as a result of the stop may be suppressed with a successful motion to suppress physical evidence. End result - dismissal.
2. If the police suspected Jennifer Ritchie, did they give her an adequate Miranda warning before she admitted wrong doing? If not, then her statements may be suppressed with a successful motion to suppress statements. If these statements were the catalysts to the recovery of items from her home, then the suppression of the statements would also result in the suppression of the items found there.
3. Did the father know what his daughter was doing? Was he actually visiting his daughter in the area? Where did she live? Did she jump in his truck and throw the package in the back without telling her father where it came from? After all, she had other items in her home and it appears that her father has only been charged with the items in the truck. Surely, if anything was found in his home, it would have been reported. Moreover, the stories do not say that she implicated her father in her other thefts. I do not have all of the evidence that the police have. But, based strictly upon these news reports, isn't it at least possible that Michael Ritchie did not know what was going on? And if he did not, what of the facetious call for the death penalty?
A committed professional criminal defense attorney will not shy away from a difficult case and will press every angle for his client regardless of the popularity of the client or the charge. Without apology.