Between the news coverage and the frenzy of public interest in the Gabby Petito case and the subsequent discovery of her boyfriend, Brian Laundry, it might be easy to forget that Mr. Laundry was actually charged with any crime beyond fraudulent use of his credit card. The allegation has not been made.
Police have issued a warrant for Mr. Laundry’s arrest on fraud charges, but when it comes to Ms. Petito’s death, Mr. Laundry is still considered only a “person of interest”.
But what does that term actually mean, and what are the implications when law enforcement uses that term?
“Person of interest” means exactly what the phrase says—a person is someone to whom law enforcement is interested in speaking about a crime.
Unlike terms such as “suspect” or “physical witness”, person of interest is not a defined legal phrase, and is not recognized as an official designation by the US Department of Justice. Instead, it serves as a placeholder for someone who the police believe may have some connection to a crime, but is not charged with the crime they are investigating. are not ready for.
The term is intentionally ambiguous. It was coined in the 1960s by police and other law enforcement entities to investigate Vietnam War protesters and civil rights activists. By using the term “person of interest,” police can justify an investigation without bringing formal charges against Americans, even though the term has no legal basis.
Since then, the phrase has been widely adopted by law enforcement agencies across the country to describe individuals who have not been charged with crimes, but who are still people who are known to be involved in a police crime. wants to speak about
The U.S. Department of Justice has three terms that are recognized for persons being sought in connection with a crime: “subject,” “suspect,” and “target.” Each word has different meanings and has legal definitions.
In 2002, Dr. Steven Jay Hatfil, who had been accused of being behind the anthrax scare a year earlier, sued the US State Department after being named as a person of interest in the case. His reputation suffered as a result of the media attention. He was eventually cleared of all charges and his lawsuit against the Justice Department was settled out of court in 2008 for $5.8 million.
So, what does it mean for Mr. Laundry to be a “Person of Interest”?
It’s just that they are being demanded by law enforcement to learn more about what happened to Ms. Petito. Does this mean the police don’t have enough evidence to charge Mr. Laundry? Not necessary.
ABC News chief legal analyst Dan Abrams theorized that the reason why more charges were not brought against Mr. Laundry is to prevent potential wrongdoing if he is ever found, charged and tried.
“I think that [law enforcement] All want to gather evidence so that later they are not accused in the trial for committing a mistake.”
However, some have wondered whether the fact that Mr Laundry has not been charged with murder, combined with the fact that Ms Petito’s remains have still not been released to her family, suggests That investigators are missing vital information if they were planning to charge Mr. Laundry. with murder.
In any case, until Mr. Laundry is found, he will remain a person of interest until new evidence is found that directly links him to Ms. Petito’s death. The trial cannot take place in her absence, so unless she is found or someone else is charged, there will be no murder trial to hold anyone responsible for Ms. Petito’s death.
Credit: www.independent.co.uk /