I followed a link yesterday from Oleg Volk's blog to this Wikipedia article on the 2007 murder of Channon Gail Christian and Hugh Christopher Newsom, Jr., of Knoxville, Tennessee. Neither the blog post nor the specific details of the murder are relevant to the point of this post (though I'll give you the Oleg Volk link, about the fact that there is no such thing as a social contract with evil, anyway). What is relevant is the charges.
(Oh, and let's get this straight: You don't have to go and read the article. It may be disturbing for the fainter of heart.)
Let's summarize the relevant details: Two people were (quite brutally) raped and murdered. There were five persons accused in the crime. So far, simple enough.
Where we come to a problem is that .. well, OK, let's say each of the five suspects is individually charged with each of the two murders. That makes a total of ten murder charges. Right?
But that's not what happened. Somehow, the prosecutors managed to come up with a total of sixty seven murder charges — sixty of 'felony murder', and seven of 'premeditated murder'.
This is absurd, and I fail to come up with any possible rational explanation for this, unless it's just a case of "if we throw enough murder charges at them, some of them have to stick." (And I frankly don't discount the possibility that some of those charges largely amounted to 'black murderer, white victim'.)
Make no mistake about it, this was a horrific crime. But: Had the accused been charged with a single count, each, or murder for each victim, two murder charges per person total, and somehow been found not guilty on all ten counts, and the prosecutor had then filed a further ten murder charges and hauled them back into court again, the case would have been rightfully thrown out for double indemnity.
So ... if it's not OK to make the same accusee face trial multiple times on separate occasions for the same charge for the same crime ... why is it OK to make them face the same charge multiple times in the same trial? You can only kill someone just so many times. I don't for one moment think that there was a moment during the commission of this crime at which the perps looked at each other and said, "You know what, we only killed this one six times. She ain't dead enough yet, let's kill her again."
I propose that if the prohibition on double indemnity bars re-charging and re-trying a suspect with the same charges for the same crime because they were found not guilty in the first trial, then it should also bar piling up multiple counts of the same charge for the same crime in a single trial. If, in any criminal trial, the total number of charges filed against any suspect accused of a given crime, for that specific crime, exceeds the number of victims of that crime, then you have a problem.
(No, you don't get to charge someone with five counts of murder for the same victim because the accused poisoned the victim, shot him, stabbed him, bashed his head in with a hammer, then stuffed him in a weighted sack and threw him in the lake. There's one victim; you get to file one charge of murder. Bad enough already that we allow premeditated extreme especially aggravated seriously super-bad murder. Dead is dead, and as they used to say in the Old West, "You can only kill a man just so dead.")