A Madison, Alabama woman whose child died after being left in a bathtub fully clothed with the water running has now had the charges against her upgraded to capital murder, according to prosecutors. 27-year old Desiree Dawn Childers was served with a capital murder warrant, meaning if convicted she could face either the death penalty or life without parole. However, there has been no statement from the prosecutor’s office on whether the death penalty will be sought. Childers was originally charged with reckless murder. The upgrade to the capital charge carries several implications.
First, a capital case has different bond requirements than does a regular murder case. Alabama law requires bond be set in all cases except those involving capital crimes, which means that Childers could very well be held without bond until trial. Second, charging a defendant with a capital offense raises the stakes in nearly every aspect of the case; for example, preliminary hearings, discovery issues, and even bifurcation of the trial into a liability phase and a sentencing phase. In capital cases, the is a trial on whether the defendant is guilty of the crime charged, and then if guilt is determined, there is another “trial” as to what sentence should be imposed (i.e. death or life without parole).
Prosecutors often charge defendants capitally to induce a plea agreement to a lesser offense. For example, if in this case the charges had remained at reckless murder, then any plea negotiations would be oriented by the minimum sentence for that offense (i.e. 20 years). The defense would then negotiate to try and obtain a lesser charge (e.g. negligent homicide or manslaughter). However, now that the defendant is potentially facing the death penalty, a plea agreement for reckless murder and 20 years looks much more attractive.
If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime such as capital murder, it must be your top priority to get the best legal representation possible. The criminal attorneys at Parkman White, LLP have decades of experience handling high-stakes criminal cases, and are fierce advocates in the courtroom as well as at the negotiating table. Let us put our experience to work for you. Call today at 205-502-2000 or visit out website at www.parkmanwhite.com for a consultation.