Making a Murderer

“The case comes in, it’s a big splash, it’s all over the news. Almost a year later, these big mean offensive counts get dropped, it’s not a front-page story anymore. It’s somewhere in the recesses of the paper. It’s just not a big deal. At that point people already associate the case with murder-for-hire. No prosecutor would ever say that’s what they’re doing, but as a long-term criminal defense attorney, this happens all the time.”
— Jay Leiderman, Criminal Defense Attorney.[1]

“It’s good that the charges have been dropped, but the government’s careless use of them as a media weapon to destroy Ulbricht’s reputation and to encourage the sentencing judge to be far harsher than the crimes he was convicted on actually would warrant have alas already done their damage.”
— Brian Doherty, Reason.[2]

“While the charge was never anything more than an unproven accusation, it seemed to be constantly given more weight than was justified.”
— Trevor Hill, BitsOnline.[3]

The government never charged Ross at trial with any violence, including planned murder.[4][5] A jury never ruled on this and Ross was never convicted of it. The prosecution never proved that Ross authored any of the anonymous chats and text files the accusations relied on. Yet prosecutors used unproven, unprosecuted murder-for-hire allegations to deny Ross bail, smear him in the media, bias his jurors, and—in violation of the Sixth Amendment—the judge used them to justify the life sentence he ultimately received.

A pending second indictment in the District of Maryland containing this allegation (based on evidence provided by a corrupt DEA agent now in prison[6][7]) was dismissed with prejudice on July 20, 2018.[8][9] No murders occurred and even Curtis Green, the alleged victim[10] and a top-level Silk Road administrator, has publicly stated that he does not believe Ross was involved.[11]

Reason article, July 25, 2018
Tweetby Curtis Green, alleged “victim”

Unproven Allegations Used at Sentencing

“The sentence was based on judicial findings related to allegations of serious crimes that not only were never found by a jury but were not even among the charges leveled at trial.”
— National Lawyers Guild and seven other amici in support or Ross’s Supreme Court petition.[12]

Even though the allegations were not part of Ross’s charges at trial, Judge Forrest used them to justify her draconian sentence. This reliance on uncharged crimes was addressed in Ross’s appeal to the Second Circuit, and argued in an amicus brief by former Federal Judge Nancy Gertner, Drug Policy Alliance, Law Enforcement Action Partnership, and JustLeadership USA.[13][14]

Despite admitting this, Turner spoke in detail about these allegations during his closing argument
The same question was later petitioned to the Supreme Court by the law firm of Williams & Connolly, because it violates the Sixth Amendment to base a sentence on uncharged conduct that a jury never ruled on. This was supported in three amicus briefs from Downsize DC Foundation, Conservative Legal Defense and Education Fund, Gun Owners Foundation, Gun Owners of America, Inc., Restoring Liberty Action Committee, National Lawyers Guild, FreedomWorks, American Conservative Union Foundation Center, Human Rights Defense Center, Federal Judge Nancy Gertner, National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms, Partnership for Civil Justice Fund and People’s Law Office.

References