How to Take a Life & Get Away With It?

black Image of scales on white background with the words, "calibrate the scales" overlaid. As with any set of scales, the scales of justice must, from time to time, be recalibrated. Total balance is never achieved, but all in the criminal justice and legal systems must strive for it as much as possible.

Op-Ed by C J Oakes

The perfect crime. It has been the subject of countless books, plays, and movies since books, plays, and movies were created. Committing the so-called perfect crime has been the dream of criminals; solving the perfect crime the goal of detectives.

Yet is there any such thing as a perfect crime? Is it really possible to take a life and get away with it?

One Way to Take a Life

Taking the life of another is a crime called murder. Of course, it is only murder when taking the life is not sanctioned by the state. Otherwise, taking a life is called justice or war, depending on the numbers involved.

in 1991, Chedell Ray Williams was a 17-year old student at Olney High School. Olney High is a charter school in Philadelphia and Williams was in her Senior year. While walking home one day, she was robbed of $450.00 and her earrings; she was later shot in the head and killed.

Three eyewitnesses told their story to police, telling them that they knew the killers. No perfect crime here. Police detectives had enough to charge James Dennis even though he claimed to have been on a bus miles from the scene when the crime occurred.

Facts Are Important When Solving a Crime

The only problem with this case is that the alibi was solid. In 2013, a Federal Judge ruled that in the case of James Dennis, Philadelphia prosecutors hid evidence which would have excluded the young man as a participant in the murder. He did participate in the robbery, but was not present during the slaying of Williams much later.

The Judge found that witnesses who stated the killer was taller than Dennis were not called to testify–instead, their testimonies were buried byt the Prosecution.  To quote U.S. District Court Judge Anita Brody,

The Commonwealth covered up evidence that pointed away from Dennis. It ignored Dennis’ own explanation for where he was at the time of the murder: taking a bus from his father’s home to the Abbotsford Homes project. It allowed awitness who saw Dennis on that bus to give incorrect testimony about what time that interaction occurred. 
The police focus on Dennis stemmed from neighborhood rumors that he had been involved. This focus appears to have led police to overlook disparities between the eyewitness descriptions of the shooter and Dennis, most importantly their descriptions of the shooter’s size. All five of the nine eyewitnesses who provided an estimate of the shooter’s height in their statements to the police described the shooter as between 5’7” and 5’10”, with four describing him as 5’9” or 5’10”. Not a single eyewitness described the shooter as small, short, or petite. However, Dennis is only 5’5and 125-132 pounds, significantly smaller than the descriptions of the shooter.
It would seem that the police detectives who “solved” this crime were not concerned with facts; nor was the prosecutor.

Another Way to Take a Life

A life may be taken literally, as in the tragic case of Chedell Williams, or figuratively, as in the trafic case of James Dennis.
However, to get away with such a crime, one must have the backing of the state. In this case, the State of Pennsylvania.
After Judge Brody ruled in 2013 that James Dennis did not receive a fair trial and that the evidence presented was “a grave miscarriage of justice,” the case was remanded for retrial or dismissal.
The original prosecutor has long since left office, leaving a legacy worthy of contempt. Yet, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams shows equal signs of disgusting behavior. Rather than reopen the case (at least one suspect was never found) and release Dennis, he made a terrible offer in 2016: Plead No Contest to the crime and gain release or face a new trial.
For a man who has spent 25 years on death row, that presents a terrible choice: Accept a guilty verdice in the eyes of the state, essentially destroying what little life remains outside prison or take his chances with a clearly-corrupt institution intent on saving face no matter the cost to the innocent.
Dennis took the deal.
For a prosecutor bent on taking a life, the perfect crime is just that easy.

President, Publisher at Oakes Media Group
C J Oakes is an author and freelance writer from Lubbock, TX, USA. In addition to this website, he operates and

As an author, he has numerous books to his credit including the best-selling Survive and Thrive After the Collapse of the Dollar series. In addition, he has written over a hundred books for clients since 2011 and has created innumerable web pages for law firms and others worldwide.

Passionate about Justice, Mr. Oakes believes that the scales of justice are never balanced, but it is the duty of each citizen to do their part to re-calibrate the scales as needed. When the scales of justice shift too far to one side, they must be returned a near as possible to center.

He built this site with the goal of helping students of criminal justice understand how to apply the principles needed for re-calibrating the scales as well as providing easy access to needed study resources.

Criminal Justice Law International welcomes guest posts and anyone interested in contributing to the goals of the site.

This site is owned by Oakes Media Group.