How (Not) to Get Away with Murder

May 30, 2022 Criminal Defense, Violent Crimes

This past Wednesday, 05/25/22, author Nancy Crampton-Brophy was found guilty by a jury of second-degree murder in Portland, Oregon.

Nancy’s own words on her website seemed to have rung true in the juror’s ear, “in writing fiction, you dig deep and unearth portions of your own life that you’ve long forgotten or had purposely buried deep.”

The author is known for writing steamy romantic thrillers and a notorious essay titled, “How to Murder Your Husband.” Unlike the positively receive tv show, “How to Get Away with Murder,” Nancy’s essays seemed to have not properly prepare her for such endeavors.

The Prosecution argued that Nancy’s self-published books were not selling well and that the couple was struggling with debt. With her husband’s life insurance of more than $1.5 million, the Prosecution successfully argued that Nancy’s husband was worth more to her death than alive.

We will cover some of the facts of the case, other notorious instances of people (not) getting away with murder, and what these charges look like in Florida.

What Happened?

The incident occurred on June 2, 2018, at a culinary school where Nancy’s husband, Daniel Brophy, was preparing to teach a cooking class. He was shot twice, once in the back and one time in close range in the chest. The victim still had his cash and credit cards when he was found that same morning by the students arriving for his class.

Nancy Crampton-Brophy was arrested in September 2018 and was charged with gunning down her husband. The Prosecution stated, that even though the school had no security cameras, footage was found on nearby traffic cameras of Nancy’s Toyota minivan near the institute around the time of the shooting. Nancy had bought a 9mm handgun at a Portland gun show, with investigators finding two 9mm shell casings at the scene.

The Prosecution pointed out that it wasn’t just that Nancy owned a gun, but that she had bought a “ghost gun” assembly kit. Ghost guns are unfinished guns that can be constructed by individuals using bits and pieces to create a real, functioning gun once it’s been assembled.

The Prosecution explained that these was critical in covering her tracks, as she was able to swap the slid and barrel of the Glock 9mm with an identical mechanism she had bought on eBay. Once she made the swap, she was able to present to police a handgun that was basically a new gun that would not match the shell casings at the scene.

Nancy was also the sole beneficiary of various life insurance policies, totaling more than $1.5 million in pay outs. The prosecutor said that Nancy was spending over $1,000 a month on the life insurance premiums despite the financial difficulties the couple was facing.

In 2011, Nancy published a WordPress article by the title “How to Murder Your Husband.” The post has since been made private but was split into the cons and pros of killing a would-be villainous husband. Because the post was made almost 7 years before the alleged crime occurred, the judge decided that it was unfairly prejudicial and that it would not be presented as evidence to the jury.

Nancy, who is currently 71, is facing a minimum of 25 years in prison at her sentencing on June 13th.

Romanticizing Murder

Famous Tv producer Shonda Rhimes produced the American thriller “How to Get Away with Murder.” In it a prominent criminal defense attorney and law professor selects five first year law students to intern at her criminal firm. The shows starts by introducing two related murders through flashbacks and flashforward sequences, alternating between the interns covering up one of the murders and leading up to creating suspicion to implicate the second murder victim with the initial murder.

The show ran from 2014 to its final season in May of 2020. The first season received positive reviews, with a critical consensus of a thrilling melodrama with twists that captivated the audience.

A quick cursory search quickly points to a guide by Danny R. Smith helping would-be murderers that Nancy must have missed. The very first tip on the list by Danny Smith is of having no motive. As the sole person to have a motive to murder her husband, Nancy was center point in the police investigation. Lack of motive seems to have been critically overlooked in Nancy’s own essay and planning. It’s hard to imagine that her motive didn’t play an integral part in the jury’s verdict.

Other Poorly Planned Murders and Why Guns ‘N’ Roses Song “Used to Love Her” Is Not an Ideal Pick to Buy When Thinking of Murdering Your Spouse

Justin Barber is serving a life sentence after allegedly murdering his wife. Justin claimed to have been attacked by an unknown assailant who proceeded to shoot his wife while the couple were walking on a beach in Guana River State Park, North Florida, on August 17, 2002.

An expert testified in Justin’s case that he downloaded the song “Used to Love Her,” which contains the lyrics “I used to love her, but I had to kill her. I had to put her six feet under.” Prosecutors successfully argued that the lyrics were eerily similar to what happened when April Barber was killed, playing the song to the jury who later convicted Justin. This case has a clear lesson for would be murderers, even a song can be construed by the prosecution as a showing of the defendant’s state of mind prior to committing murder.

The Dan Markel Murder Case involves a murder for hire scheme where FSU Law Professor Dan Markel was murdered in his own home over a possible custody battle. Although the murder of Dan Markel occurred almost 8 years ago, new developments in his case has the alleged shooter Sigfredo Garcia’s girlfriend, Katherine Magbanua facing a retrial for her possible involvement in the murder-for-hire plot. While the story has as many twist and turns as a good thriller novel, the message is clear, do not involve family, friends, or ex-boyfriends when thinking of murdering your spouse.

To read more about the current developments in this case, head over to our blog here.

Criminal Repercussion for Murdering your Spouse in Florida

Florida Statute Chapter 782 covers homicide, with various subsections ranging from possible defenses to what constitute the crime of murder. A conviction of a homicide, or the attempt of committing a homicide, is considered a violent crime in Florida.

Under Florida Statute Section 782.04, a first-degree murder charge is one of the harshest in the state of Florida, resulting in possible life in prison or the potential of the death penalty.

For a charge of First-Degree Premeditated Murder, the prosecutor needs to prove the following during trial:

  • The Victim is dead.
  • The death was caused by the criminal act of the defendant.
    • An “act” includes a series of related actions rising from and performed by a single design or purpose.
  • There was a premeditated killing of victim.
    • “Killing with premeditation” is killing after consciously deciding to do so.  The decision must be present in the mind at the time of the killing.  The law does not fix the exact period of time that must pass between the formation of the premeditated intent to kill and the killing.  The period of time must be long enough to allow reflection by the defendant.  The premeditated intent to kill must be formed before the killing.
    • The issue of premeditation must be determined by jurors using the facts presented in the case.

While there are possible defenses to such violent crimes, including self-defense, defense to others, or defense of property, it is important to understand the law to know if the defenses may be applicable in your situation.

To read more about murder and violent crimes, you can find our blog on them here.

Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida

While murdering your spouse should never be an option you are considering, if you ever find yourself fantasizing about it remember:

  • Don’t write about stories about it,
  • Don’t post about it online,
  • Don’t sing about it where anyone could here you, and
  • Don’t even download a song with lyrics about it!

Remember, “hypothetical” speech is nothing more than ammunition for the prosecution.

If you or a loved one have been accused of any crime in Florida, it is extremely important to prioritize reaching out to a skilled Florida defense attorney in your area. Understanding the harsh penalties that come with a criminal conviction is just as important as working towards a strong defense. Don Pumphrey and his team at Pumphrey Law Firm have experience representing clients all across Leon County and the state of Florida for various criminal charges. We understand how stressful dealing with a criminal charge can be, and we will work tirelessly to try to ensure your freedom. Call (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message today for a free consultation.

Written by Jesus Lozano

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