In April 2011, Raogo Ouedraogo was convicted of kidnapping and killing Donald Dietz, who disappeared from Saranac, Michigan in 2007. (In June, Ouedraogo’s alleged partner-in-crime, Rami Saba, was also convicted.) However, I was just looking at the No Body Murder Cases website and found a link to this article and this one from back in December: Janet Neff, the federal judge who presided over Ouedraogo’s trial, has overturned the jury verdict and issued a judgement of not guilty.
You can read Judge Neff’s 36-page ruling here. I present the highlights:
The government acknowledged that Saba was the central figure in the scheme to kidnap and kill Dietz and steal his money and that so much of the government’s case was about Saba that the jury probably wondered at times who was on trial. Nonetheless, it was the government’s ultimate contention that Ouedraogo knowingly and voluntarily agreed to help Saba execute his scheme and helped his friend commit the crime, despite presenting evidence of only Saba’s wrongdoing. […] The government’s case against Ouedraogo was based entirely on Ouedraogo’s friendship and association with Saba, primarily their telephone call records and travel in 2007, which the government alleged increased significantly from past years. The record was devoid of evidence of any link between Ouedraogo and Dietz, either directly or indirectly through Saba. […]
Thus, the charges against Ouedraogo were based, at most, on his presence in Grand Rapids and association with Saba at suspect times. […] Aside from the fundamental deficiency of proof of a kidnapping or death, even if these events took place, the proof of Ouedraogo’s involvement is far too attenuated to sustain his conviction of crimes charged. Further, for a conviction of kidnapping, the government must prove intent. The government must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Ouedraogo knowingly and willfully kidnapped, abducted, seized or confined Dietz. There is no such proof. The circumstances of the presumed death in this case are completely unknown. There is no evidence of how, when or where the death occurred. The evidence is so lacking that at trial the government offered no specific theory, or even speculation, of how or where the death occurred. [emphasis hers]
Absolutely nothing connects these time and location dots to a kidnapping and death. Nothing. Mere idle time and Saba’s momentary cellular phone location near Saranac (an area through which a state highway runs from Grand Rapids) does not move the government theory of the date and time of death from speculation to a reasonable inference. As Ouedraogo argues, the government again fits the facts to the theory instead of having the facts establish the theory.
Um…she’s got a point. If all she wrote in this ruling is correct, I would totally have acquitted him too. In America they’re not supposed to find you guilty of a crime just because you associate with a criminal.
The prosecution is appealing.