An arrest in a cold case is supposed to be an occasion for celebrating the enduring cause of justice. There is no statute of limitations (da-DUM!!) for murder. That applies even after you've left the state where it happened to start a new life a thousand miles away. Still, on one afternoon nearly 26 years after the last echo of the gun blast, you may be blowing leaves in front of some car dealership when a cop comes with an arrest warrant.
That, according to police, is the story of Anthony L. Martin, a West Palm 52-year-old accused of being the drug dealer who, on June 26, 1983, shot and killed another drug dealer named Junior Galloway with what the Houston Chronicle calls a "large-caliber handgun."
It does not mention the factor that surely played a key role in Martin's alleged getaway: that he has apparently been a law-abiding citizen in the 26 years following the incident. Or at least there's nothing but a few traffic infractions under his name in the Palm Beach County courts. I assume (pending a few call-backs from law enforcement sources) that if Martin had been scooped up for another crime, a cross-checking of his information would have connected with the outstanding warrant for murder.
So if Martin really is the killer, his case leads me to wonder whether there really should be a statute of limitations for murder.
Hear me out on this. Obviously, the key would be for the judge to adjust it according to the case. No statute of limitations for the most heinous cases of murder, of course, in which the victim was random or had not made himself vulnerable to violent crime by engaging in an illegal activity, like drug-dealing.
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In a case in which a victim had placed himself in such extreme danger as the one in this case, I would argue that he's lost the same claim to the infinite, taxpayer-funded pursuit of justice.
If that man's killer can't immediately be apprehended, then he has every reason to act like a model citizen. Few are able to do that, of course, which is why the majority of these cases get solved eventually. But in those rare cases where the killer can turn over a new leaf (if you'll pardon the pun) I'd rather see detectives use their limited resources to work cases of killers who haven't gone a few decades without being arrested.
What's more, I'm not thrilled with paying the expenses that come with prosecuting an alleged former drug dealer who allegedly killed another drug dealer 26 years ago. The passage of time makes the case much harder to win, as evidenced by another recently thawed murder case from 1983. Even if prosecutors get a conviction, taxpayers get to pay for the appeals and the cost of incarcerating a man who otherwise appears to have been capable of obeying laws and paying taxes.
And I realize that in this case, that burden falls on Texas taxpayers, but still it's the principle of it.