Idaho Supreme Court Rules: Unconstitutional to Charge Woman Who Dumped Body in the Lake
Common Sense would tell you that if you have possession of your friend’s dead body and dump it in the lake, you might go to jail, at least for failure to report the body. But the Idaho Supreme Court has ruled that it violates the 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination if the person is in danger of getting into trouble.
Blue Lives Matter reported that in October of 2015, Laura Akins and Lacy Drake, along with others, found the body of Kimberly Vezina in the bathroom after she overdosed on morphine and amphetamines at a known drug house in Spokane, Washington. Because Akins and Drake had less criminal history than everyone else at the house, they were chosen to get rid of Vezina’s body.
With the help of others, they wrapped the body in a shower curtain and tarp, tied it up, and put it in the back of a stolen SUV. Then Akins and Drake drove to Lake Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. They had cement to weigh down the body, but didn’t know how to tie it to the tarp, so just dumped it in the lake and drove away.
The two women then burglarized a nearby home and stole a .22 pistol and some tools.
A fisherman found the body in November of 2015. Akins and Drake were arrested in 2016 for failure to notify police of the body, a felony. Akins was also charged with unlawful entry for the burglary, for which she got 30 days in jail.
Akins’ attorneys said that reporting the body was a violation of her 5th Amendment rights. The judge agreed and dismissed that felony charge. Prosecutors appealed, but the Idaho Supreme Court agreed with dismissal of the charges.
The ruling read in part:
“The problem with this prosecution rests in the information that Akins was at that time required to report. The parties agree that at a minimum the language of [the law] requires reporting of two pieces of information: (1) the existence of a dead body and (2) the location of that body.
At all times for which the statute was in effect against Akins, the body was either in the rear cargo area of the SUV she occupied or in Lake Coeur d’Alene. Unlike the fishermen who eventually found the body and notified law enforcement, Akins did not have an ability to report her knowledge as to the existence and location of that body without informing law enforcement that she had carried it across the state line in an SUV she occupied and disposed of it in a lake…
Akins would have effectively admitted to her commission of the State’s charge of destroying evidence…if she had reported it.
We find it difficult to invent a more substantial hazard of self-incrimination than the one that was actually presented here. As the facts of this case are applied, we hold that Akins’s prosecution under the statute would violate her Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination.”
So there you have it: if a person has a long criminal history and might incriminate themselves for reporting the existence of a dead body, it’s ok to not report it. There are some seriously messed up courts in the US.
Featured photo: screenshot of Kimberly Vezina via Blue Lives Matter