Late to the party.

The process of going from being a “regular” person to being “accused” is an interesting one.  If you’re charged with a felony, it usually means you were charged with a criminal complaint and later either a judge (at a preliminary hearing) or grand jury (by an indictment) found there was probable cause to charge you.  People are typically charged with crimes as soon as the police and state’s attorney’s office think they have enough evidence against you- usually the same day or shortly thereafter.

Sometimes, though, the charges come months or even years later. That’s what just happened in Woodstock with the deaths of Gloria and Nick Romano:

Son charged with 2006 slaying of parents

Published: Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014 12:58 p.m. CST • Updated: Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014 11:12 p.m. CST
By CHELSEA McDOUGALL – cmcdougall@shawmedia.com
More than seven years after they were found shot to death in their McHenry County home, the son of Gloria and Nick Romano has been charged with killing them.
Michael W. Romano, 54, was arrested Tuesday in Las Vegas, charged with first-degree murder in his parents’ 2006 double homicide.

So, you ask, why did it take so long?  You know they’re not going to sit on a murder charge for no reason.  They’re going to charge this sort of thing as soon as they can.  Especially because he was a suspect the entire time:

Police long have suspected Michael Romano. Formerly of Algonquin, he left the area shortly after his parents’ death and was working as a cab driver in Las Vegas, sheriff’s police said.
As the 2006 investigation progressed, Michael Romano stopped cooperating with detectives and would only speak with them through an attorney, according to Northwest Herald reports from the time.
It’s unclear what new evidence, if any, connects Michael Romano to the killings. McHenry County State’s Attorney Criminal Division Chief Michael Combs would not comment on the investigation.

That last paragraph hits the nail on the head.  “It’s unclear what new evidence, if any…”  These media people have to say this sort of thing because they’re not supposed to speculate.  I’ll speculate, though.

In my experience there’s almost always new evidence with these late charges.  Typically, charges coming after a long delay occur because either an informant came forward, or there’s new lab/scientific evidence purportedly linking the accused to the crime.  Lab/scientific evidence can be delayed because new techniques or tests were developed to analyze existing evidence in a different way (like is happening with all of the exonerations in the pre-DNA cases).

Informants, though?  Why do they wait?  Why would that sort of information take so long to come out?

It’s not usually because some upstanding citizen has a change of heart six years later– your average “upstanding citizen” is going give the police any and all information he can on an unsolved crime as soon as he can.

It’s what you and the police may call an “informant”, many of us refer to as a jailhouse snitch.  Those guys don’t want to talk to anybody about anything. Then they get themselves in trouble and need a quick way out.  They start to talk.  It’s just like when I wrote about the Lance Armstrong doping fiasco.  People who don’t want to talk will often talk when given the right “incentive”. It can take time for that incentive to form (meaning, it takes time for them to get arrested on their own serious charges first).

Sometimes they give the authorities truthful information in an effort to help themselves. Other times they don’t have truthful information, but they tell whatever story they think might be helpful.

I don’t know anything about the Romano case other than what I’ve read in the paper.  I’d hazard a guess that there’s new information- probably from an informant.  We’ll know soon enough.

Author: matthaiduk

Matt Haiduk is a criminal defense lawyer in Illinois. He loves his dog. And pizza.

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