The arrest of WSU football player Shalom Luani and its aftermath is an excellent example of the difference between the concepts of ‘probable cause’ and ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’. Mr. Luani was arrested for assault after being involved in an incident at a pizza joint in Pullman, Washington. WSU coach Mike Leach has always maintained that he believes Mr. Luani was acting in self defense when he was jumped by several men in a fight that left a 20-year-old WSU student with a broken nose.
On Monday, Whitman County Prosecutor Denis Tracy announced he would not file charges against Mr. Luani despite Pullman Police’s recommendation to charge him with second-degree felony assault. Mr. Tracy said he could not prove ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ that Mr. Luani did not act in self-defense. Apparently, the story that emerged at the end of the case differed from the version of events the police originally released to the public.
Interestingly, notwithstanding the fact that Mr. Tracy chose to decline filing charges against Mr. Luani, he stressed that he believes the Pullman Police did have probable cause to arrest Mr. Luani. This was important for Mr. Tracy to note because in the grand scheme of things a lot of people simply don’t understand the difference between ‘probable cause’ and ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’. You see … probable cause is a lesser standard and is all that is necessary for police to initiate an arrest. Beyond a reasonable doubt is a higher standard and is what the government must meet in order to convict someone. Clear as mud? Well, to a prosecutor, a defense attorney and/or a judge it makes all the difference in the world.
In Mr. Luani’s case the police report indicates that when Pullman PD officers arrived on the scene of the alleged crime, the alleged victim had a bloody nose, Mr. Luani was agitated, and several witnesses claimed they had witnessed him punching the victim in the face. However, at that moment, while on scene, there was not overwhelming evidence to show Mr. Luani was defending himself. That fact was gleaned later … after further investigation and inquiry into the matter in the days that followed. Thus, on the date of the incident the police had sufficient information to develop probable cause to arrest, but in the days that followed Mr. Tracy did not have sufficient information to establish beyond a reasonable doubt Mr. Luani committed the crime of assault.
If you or a loved one is arrested or charged with a crime, you should immediately seek the advice and/or assistance of a qualified Seattle criminal defense attorney. The Seattle Criminal Defense Attorneys that make up the criminal defense team of SQ Attorneys are highly qualified and reputable Seattle criminal defense lawyers that are dedicated to providing top notch, aggressive representation for those arrested or charged for crime all across Western Washington and the Greater Puget Sound region. The team creates success by working with law enforcement and the prosecuting attorney’s office to ensure that all facts and circumstances related to the criminal allegations are considered in creating the fairest, most equitable and just resolution possible in light of all the surrounding circumstances of the given case. So, whether you are arrested or charged with misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor or a felony, protect yourself … call SQ Attorneys at (206) 441-0900.