During my research to learn what really happened to Elliott Smith on October 21st 2003, I have sent countless emails, messages which never got answered, I have encountered a lot dead ends and disappointments. Comments left with no further explanations, people declining to give further informations or not even replying. People are afraid to speak for many reasons, as I was saying in a previous post, people don’t easily get involved in homicide investigations because they often are not sure that the info they have is relevant to the investigation, they often think the police should have come to question them in the first place, and if they think the info could be relevant to the case, they often don’t want to be responsible for the arrest of someone, especially if they are not 100% sure. Also, most people are not comfortable talking to the police, either because they have something to hide (and a lot of people do) or because they think they will be in trouble and caught in the middle of some story which is not their business.
Except if you have witnessed a crime, or much worst, if you are accomplice of a crime, it’s very difficult to know for sure if whatever suspicious activity or whatever strange detail you have noticed is relevant to the investigation. But if you do think a murder was committed, is it also a crime to not report what makes you suspicious? The law is not that simple and I have always wondered whether people, who know part of what happened on October 21st and have not talked to the police, can be charged.
This article partially answers to the question, it makes sense that, if you ‘give assistance to perpetrators of crime to help them avoid detection, arrest or prosecution, you can be charged as an ‘accessory after the fact.’ You are then culpable under the accomplice liability theory because you willfully did something to cause it to be carried out or even concealed. Staying quiet while knowing stuff definitively sounds like concealing.
That’s the second part that is important if you did something to cause the crime to be concealed you could be in trouble, the lawyer article is even providing assistance for people been arrested for failing to provide information about a crime or becoming an accessory to a crime, so this definitively happens.
In Elliott Smith’s case, if there was effectively murder and if a few people are aware that a crime was committed, even though they were not present at the scene, they could be charged, if the murderer is ever arrested. According to the law, a person A would be accused of a crime of Accessory After The Fact if it is proven that A knew that a person B committed a crime, and assisted B with the specific purpose or design to hinder or prevent B’s apprehension, trial or punishment.
I am saying this because a large number of people refused to talk to me. I am not the police, I am well aware of this, but they also never talked to the police and their reactions, when I tried to contact them, were a bit extreme to me. Why blocking a person asking you a legit question? Doesn’t it look a bit suspicious? Of course, these people could think I am a troll, or a nutcase, but it always looks bizarre for an open and unresolved case like this one, don’t they want it to be solved? And if they have a strong and definitive opinion, they could take the time to explain their point of view or on the contrary say they don’t know anything, as some others have done it.
Of course people probably get away with covering up for crimes all the time, especially when it is done in the most passive way, and when you know that one third of murders in America go unresolved, it’s very likely that these people don’t have too much to be scared of.
A lot of open cases stay unsolved and according to this same article, this is due to the fact that standards for charging someone of murder are higher now, as ‘prosecutors nowadays demand that police deliver “open-and-shut cases” that will lead to quick plea bargains’. Other factors (still according to this article) can be due to ‘a growing “no snitch” culture, especially in minority communities’, and ‘the reluctance of potential witnesses makes it hard to identify suspects’. Plus no all neighborhoods are equally treated by the police and minorities-occupied neighborhoods are certainly not a priority for a murder investigation.
In Elliott Smith’s case, all these factors weighed in the scale, it happened in a relatively poor neighborhood (Echo Park pre-gentrification), occupied by minorities, often distrustful of the police and reluctant to come up as witness by fear of the cops. At the top of this, it’s unclear whether Elliott’s brush with the LAPD in November 2002 played an immediate role, my guess is that the officers who arrived on the scene were very probably not aware of it, buy it’s possible it has played a role later in the investigation.
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