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Jonathan Luna’s Case and Security System in the US Research Paper

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Updated: Jun 1st, 2021

Executive Summary

The present paper studies the unsolved mystery that is the case of Jonathan Luna, a US federal prosecutor who was found stabbed to death in Brecknock Township stream in 2003. Even though the police vowed to find the murderer, after more than a decade of inquiry and investigation, the case has turned stone cold. Four hypotheses have been developed, with none of them confirmed: suicide, death at the hands of someone from his social circle, assassination, and death due to his connection to Attorney Ravenell.

The murder of Jonathan Luna has opened a difficult conversation about the faults of the security system in the US. Namely, after following in Luna’s steps and examining the crime scene, the investigators could not find sufficient evidence. It is argued that to this day, the US remains in need of better surveillance tools that would aid the justice system significantly.

Introduction

Despite the tangible progress in the legal field, investigating some crimes never comes to fruition. One of the most resonant cases of this century is that of Jonathan Luna, a young federal prosecutor who was found dead lying face down in a creek in Pennsylvania. Up to the moment of his untimely death, Jonathan Luna’s life had been a success story. The fact that his murder has yet to be solved points out possible faults in the US security system. This paper will discuss the current hypotheses about how Luna died and the necessary adjustments that the US system has to make to prevent cases like that of Luna from happening.

Current Hypotheses

Over more than a decade, investigators have developed several hypotheses, the majority of which classify the death of Jonathan Luna as a homicide. However, one of the first versions issued by the FBI was suicide. That hypothesis was perpetuated partly due to the media attention and news coverage that generated content based on rumors and speculations. The Baltimore Sun, a local news outlet, reported that Luna had motives for killing himself.

The prosecutor had been involved in a robbery case in which more than $36,000 had been stolen or embezzled. Shortly before his death, Luna had suspicions that the case would cost him the job and even had gone as far as retaining an attorney. Personal allegations included Luna’s participation in online dating and casual sex encounters despite being married with kids.1 Luna’s coworker, Reuland, argued that writing off Luna’s case as suicide was an easy way out for the federal investigators who did not want to look into his death and make a better effort.2

The nature of the wounds that led to Luna’s death showed that they could not be self-inflicted. In total, the victim was stabbed 36 times – in his back, his stomach, and his chest.3 The forensic examination also revealed the presence of so-called defense wounds: apparently, Luna tried to protect himself from knife thrusts, and his hands and forearms were cut to shreds. Thus, the remaining three hypotheses imply death at the hands of someone from Luna’s social circle, assassination, and involvement with Attorney Ravenell. As Beebe and Pherson point out, the case is especially challenging because of the confusing jumble of data and significant pieces of information missing. What is left unknown is Luna’s activities between 05:30 pm and 11:00 pm on the day of his death.4

For the ACH matrix for this case, seventeen proven facts were compiled and analyzed in terms of their application to each of the four hypotheses. As expected, the suicide version was determined to be the least viable. Only three facts spoke for it: the car left at the parking lot and the body found in the creek, stab wounds, and the possession of a penknife. The death at the hands of someone from Luna’s social circle is contradicted by only three facts, each of which has to do with the plea agreement that the victim offered earlier that day.

The assassination version seems equally plausible and implausible: ten facts speak for it, and ten facts speak against it. Before his death, Luna was working on the case of Deon Lionel Smith and Walter O. Poindexter, who were both accused of selling heroin, with the latter facing murder charges. Both indictees ran a violent gang and might have ordered Luna’s assassination.5 The last hypothesis emphasizing the connection between Attorney Ravenell and the victim appears to be more fictitious than viable. In summation, Luna’s trip to another state at night, numerous withdrawals of money, and his involvement in online dating indicate that he was on his way to someone that he knew. Stabbing wounds inflicted from a close distance point to the personal relationship between Luna and the murderer as opposed to the assassination that is usually made to be “clean.”6

Discussion

The unsolved murder of Jonathan Luna reveals the faulty nature of the US security and justice systems. First, given that as a federal prosecutor, he was working on some of the most controversial and dangerous cases, he must have been provided with better protection by the authorities. Second, even though Luna withdrew money several times during his midnight trip as well as visited a few petrol stations, neither he nor his murderer (or murderers) has been caught on camera.

This fact raises an important question about the state of national surveillance and whether it serves citizens’ and legal practitioners’ needs. Third, the coroner who was working on Luna’s case, Dr. Kirchner, was pressured to change the report and classify his death as suicide, which he refused to do.7 It is now hard to say whether the federal investigators desperately wanted to close the case or were biased against a Black legal practitioner. What is clear is the need to reassess how the justice system treats its people.

The last statement is especially true in the light of several similar cases where prosecutors were murdered under mysterious circumstances. In 2001, Thomas C. Wales, a federal prosecutor and an avid gun control advocate, was allegedly assassinated by a paid hitman; the murder has never been solved.8 In 2013, the Kaufman county murders that resulted in the death of Mark Hasse, attorney, and Michael and Cynthia McLelland, federal prosecutor and his wife, gained a lot of media attention. Eric Williams, who committed the crime, is likely to go down in legal history as one of the most notorious Texan murderers. The main motive for the murder was revenge since Kaufman County convicted Williams of theft.9 All these tragic cases only highlight the importance of adjustments to the US security system, which now seems to be failing the stars of the legal profession.

Comments

UN emphasized the importance of the administration of justice as one of the core values of the Charter. The document explains that while prosecutors need to be held to the highest standards of their profession, the state should also take responsibility. Under the “Status and Conditions of Service” section, the UN argued that states should “ensure that prosecutors can perform their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment, improper interference or unjustified exposure to civil, penal or other liability.”10

While fulfilling their prosecutorial functions, legal practitioners’ safety can be threatened, in which case the state should physically protect them and their families. Further, the UN establishes that “prosecutors like other citizens are entitled to freedom of expression, belief, association, and assembly.”11 For instance, Wales campaigned against easy access to firearms, and his views might have influenced his life and career outcome.12 Thus, the state should allow prosecutors to speak out on the topics they deem necessary and protect their freedom of speech.

While the guidelines provided by the UN make perfect sense, translating them into practice remains reasonably challenging. Since the US is hardly the only state that deals with security issues, it can and should consult other countries and exchange ideas and experience. In 2018, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) issued new recommendations for protecting those in the legal profession. The Assembly promoted the idea of an early-warning mechanism that would help lawyers to report immediate threats and seek protection.13

Prevention is better than dealing with consequences, and if a lawyer contacts authorities once he or she spots early signs of a looming disaster, they can be saved. Surely, in this case, authorities should also be aware of the gravity of the issue and take reports with utmost seriosity. Another idea is to organize human rights training for judges, prosecutors, and lawyers, especially those working in regional courts.14 The authors of this concept claim that learning about one’s entitlement to protection will help raise awareness and provide lawyers with safety tools.

Lastly, the issue of surveillance needs further examination and evaluation. The lack of evidence was one of the things that prevented federal investigators from solving Luna’s murder. However, strengthening surveillance might only seem to be an easy answer, while contrasting and comparing its risks and benefits might as well paint a different picture.15

In its recent statement, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) argued that the CCTV camera technology was not efficient in protecting people from crimes. Moreover, according to the institution, it carried real threats of abuse, and so-called “mission creep” where specific people would be unjustly targeted.16 Other experts claim the opposite and emphasize the importance of technology in aiding the police and solving crimes.

Conclusion

In 2003, the case of an ambitious young federal prosecutor Jonathan Luna’s murder shook the US. The evidence was inconclusive, and the federal investigators were staggering for many years. As of now, there are four hypotheses, one of which points to possible suicide and three of which classify death as a homicide. Luna’s death is hardly exceptional: in the last two decades, several lawyers and prosecutors have been murdered, and some cases remained unsolved.

The US security system might need serious adjustments to protect those who administer justice. UN proclaims prosecutors’ safety as one of the conditions for efficient work and good life quality. Two ideas are put forward: an early-warning mechanism and human rights training sessions. CCTV surveillance that might have helped to solve Luna’s murder was found to have some drawbacks, which include the possibility of abuse.

Works Cited

Allen, Ginger. “CBS DFW. 2019. Web.

Beebe, Sarah Miller, and Randolph H. Pherson. Cases in Intelligence Analysis: Structured Analytic Techniques in Action. CQ Press, 2014.

Brayne, Sarah. “Surveillance and System Avoidance: Criminal Justice Contact and Institutional Attachment.” American Sociological Review, vol. 79, no. 3, 2014, pp. 367-391.

di Vella, George. “Multiple Stab Wounds: Understanding the Manner of Death Through the Psychological Autopsy.” Clinical Therapeutics, vol. 168, no. 4, 2017, pp. 233-239.

Federal Bureau of Investigations.. 2019. Web.

Human Rights House. 2018. Web.

Pherson Associates, LLC. . 2014. Web.

Rosca, Corrado. “Who Killed Jonathan Luna, Esquire.” Medium. 2019. Web.

Keisling, William. The Midnight Ride of Jonathan Luna. Yardbird Books, 2005.

United Nations. . 1990. Web.

Human Rights House, 2017. Web.

ACLU, n.d. Web.

Footnotes

  1. William Keisling, The Midnight Ride of Jonathan Luna (Berkeley: Yardbird Books, 2005) 140.
  2. William Keisling, The Midnight Ride of Jonathan Luna (Berkeley: Yardbird Books, 2005) 230.
  3. Pherson Associates, LLC, The Jonathan Luna Case Study: A Chronology, 2014. Web.
  4. Sarah Miller Beebe and Randolph H. Pherson, Cases in Intelligence Analysis: Structured Analytic Techniques in Action (Thousand Oaks: CQ Press, 2014) 64.
  5. Corrado Rosca, “Who Killed Jonathan Luna, Esquire,” Medium. 2019. Web.
  6. George di Vella, “Multiple Stab Wounds: Understanding the Manner of Death Through the Psychological Autopsy,” Clinical Therapeutics 168 (2017): 236.
  7. William Keisling, The Midnight Ride of Jonathan Luna (Berkeley: Yardbird Books, 2005) 256.
  8. Federal Bureau of Investigations, Thomas Crane Wales, 2019. Web.
  9. Ginger Allen, “Inside The Mind Of Eric Williams: ‘One Of The Most Notorious Texas Killers,’” CBS DFW. 2019. Web.
  10. United Nations, Guidelines on the Role of Prosecutors, 1990. Web.
  11. United Nations, Guidelines on the Role of Prosecutors, 1990. Web.
  12. Federal Bureau of Investigations, Thomas Crane Wales, 2019. Web.
  13. “European Convention to Protect Lawyers,” Human Rights House. 2018. Web.
  14. “UN Strengthens Framework Protecting Lawyers,” Human Rights House, 2017. Web.
  15. Sarah Brayne, “Surveillance and System Avoidance: Criminal Justice Contact and Institutional Attachment,” American Sociological Review 79 (2014): 370.
  16. “What’s Wrong with Public Video Surveillance?” ACLU, n.d. Web.
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