Houston, TX -- (ReleaseWire) -- 02/16/2015 --In 1998, when he was 13 years old, Don Collins poured gasoline on an eight-year-old boy, and then set him on fire. The boy, Robert Middleton, lived, but not without severe and permanent injuries rendering him physically disabled. For years, Middleton required intensive physical therapy to treat the injuries, and in 2011, 13 years after the incident, Middleton died shortly before his 21st birthday from skin cancer caused by the burn injuries. In February of 2015, Collins was sentenced to 40 years in prison for a capital murder charge from the childhood attack, as reported by a CBS News story.
Violence and Sexual Assault
Shortly following the violent crime in 1998, charges against Collins were filed, but were shortly dropped when the police said that they didn't have enough evidence for a conviction. Now, in 2015, not only has Collins been accused (and convicted of) capital murder against Middleton, but weeks before Middleton's death, another shocking event occurred: Middleton released a video claiming that two weeks before the 1998 gasoline and fire attack, Collins sexually assaulted Middleton. The new accusation, which had previously been unheard by police or prosecutors, reopened the investigation into the 1998 charges.
Sexual Assault Accusations Evidence Enough for Authorities
Upon hearing the new accusation of sexual assault against Collins, prosecutors reopened the Collins – Middleton case. Collins, who was already in prison for charges of sexual assault against another eight-year-old boy, was convicted for the crime of murder on February 10, 2015, with closing arguments against Collins claiming that the murder was motivated by Collins' desire to keep Middleton unable from telling anyone about the sexual abuse. Despite the fact that defense attorneys stated that there were no witnesses to the crime, and hardly enough evidence for a conviction, Collins has received a 40-year sentence in prison (in addition to the other sentence mentioned above). Due to the fact that Collins was a child at the time of the attack, his case is not eligible to be considered for the death penalty.
Double Jeopardy Charges a Non-Issue in Collins Case
The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution prohibits prosecutors – either on a federal or state level – for charging a person from the same crime more than once. Doing so is known as "double jeopardy," and is considered to be a violation of a person's civil rights. However, despite the fact that charges were dropped against Collins in 1998 when enough evidence couldn't be collected to convict him, there's no issue of double jeopardy; charges against Collins in 1998 were not for murder, as they were in 2015, giving prosecutors the full right to press the charges and convict him.
An Attorney Is Essential In Understanding Criminal Defense Law
There are a variety of factors that affect both a conviction and a sentencing order in a criminal defense case. If you're facing criminal charges in Houston, Texas, an attorney can help clarify legal rights, questions, and options – it is within your best interest to seek legal help as soon as possible.