On Friday, Richard Tuite was found not guilty in the 1998 killing of Stephanie Crowe. Tuite spent eight years behind bars for her death. The new jury found there was not enough evidence to keep the mentally ill transient in prison.
NBC 7 spoke to criminal defense attorney Gretchen von Helms about whether Tuite can take legal action against the courts or law enforcement.
“Tuite can sue, but the odds of him prevailing are slim,” von Helms said. “It will be highly unlikely for him to do that because police have immunity, jurors have immunity, the judge and the courts have immunity.”
Stephanie Crowe’s brother, Michael Crowe, and his two friends were the first suspects in the case. They confessed to murdering her, but a judge determined their confessions had been coerced. Over the last 15 years, there have been numerous twists and turns, which is why von Helms said it is also unlikely prosecutors will go after Crowe’s brother again.
“They essentially could because there is no statute of limitation for murder, but because of the left and right turns of this specific case … it is one of the unusual cases in the criminal justice system that has lots of missteps and different things happen in the investigation,” von Helms said. “Now that the brother has a factually finding of innocence, it would be difficult to overcome that and find a conviction.”
Von Helms said there’s a good chance the courts will never convict Stephanie Crowe’s killer.
The Department of Corrections told NBC 7 Tuite will be processed at the California Institute for Men in Chino, Calif., where he was last held. When they receive the order of release, they have up to five days to process and release him. For Tuite’s safety and the safety of their staff, specific information about his release will not be made public.