SAN ANTONIO – Arrested within days of each other for separate killings, Sandy Guerrero, 30, and Jennifer Coryell, 43, are classic cases of the law of parties, according to Geary Reamey, a professor at the St. Mary’s School of Law.
Neither woman pulled the trigger, but the noted expert in criminal law and criminal procedure said, “Somebody can be held responsible for what somebody else does.”
Coryell’s son allegedly was killed by her husband in March, and Guerrero’s husband in May, by men in an SUV. Police said in both instances both women allegedly used the same two words, “Shoot him.”
“It’s just somebody wanting someone else to do the crime,” Reamey said.
Since the law of parties calls for specific intent, Reamey said, “They must specifically intend to cause the death of a person, not just to cause a person to be shot, but to cause that person to die.”
But he said that could be difficult for prosecutors to prove, just saying, “shoot him” isn’t enough.
“That’s still ambiguous,” Reamey said. “Shoot for what purpose? To wound, to scare, to kill?”
He said that could depend on what led up to the murder because otherwise, if it’s a general command to shoot, “The jury might infer that was meant to cause death, but it’s a little more of a reach.”
Reamey said if the jury isn’t convinced, “It might mean that the person is not responsible as a party to the crime at all.”
But if they’re convicted, he said they could face the same penalty as the person who pulled the trigger.
He also said the law of parties can apply to any crime, including burglaries or DWIs, even misdemeanors, by encouraging others to engage in illegal activity.