Sixth Circuit Reverses Lower Court In First-Degree Murder Case


Jasubhai K Desai v. Raymond Booker

This case begins with a doctor, Jasubhai Desai, and a nurse, Anna Marie Turetzky, agreeing to open a medical clinic together back in the 1970s. Their business did exceedingly well as their personal relationship soured. The two fought constantly, sometimes even physically. The two tried to remedy the situation by operating out of different branches of their clinic, but that only worked for a short time. Finally, the two decided to dissolve their partnership with Desai agreeing to repay Turetzky for her share of the enterprise.

Just over a month later police found Turetzky’s body in the front seat of her car in a motel parking lot. She had been strangled and police initially were clueless about a potential suspect. A year later, the police learned that an associate of Desai’s admitted before a grand jury that a friend who had worked at Desai’s clinic confessed to murdering Turetzky on Desai’s behalf for a few thousand dollars.

The case moved on to trial where the jury heard that Desai had solicited a hit man, took out life insurance on Turetzky, asked investigators about whether Turetzky’s body had been found before it was discovered, drove to the crime scene that day and gave the alleged hit man $2,000 after the murder.

The jury found Desai guilty of first-degree murder and the judge imposed a life sentence. The conviction was then affirmed on the state level and appealed to a federal district court. That court ultimately decided that the admission of Desai’s co-defendant’s non-testimonial statement against interest violated the Confrontation Clause, something that was appealed and rejected by the Sixth Circuit, which then remanded the case for reconsideration.

Desai then argued that the admission of confession by his hit man given to the mutual friend ought to be excluded given that it is unreliable and that it violates the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment. The district court agreed with Desai a second time, claiming that the evidence ought to have been excluded from trial.

However, the case was again appealed to the Sixth Circuit, which yet again disagreed with the district court and reversed the decision. The Sixth Circuit determined that Desai was unable to identify any valid Supreme Court precedent that would support his claim that the statements ought to be excluded. Instead, the Sixth Circuit said any mention by the Supreme Court that unreliable testimony might violate the Due Process Clause is contained only in dicta and even then, is incredibly vague. As a result, the admission will stand as will Desai’s conviction for first-degree murder.

To read the full opinion, click here.