Jesse Weber: Good morning, everybody. Welcome to Law & Crime. I’m Jesse Weber joined here by trial attorney Brad Micklin. We’re excited to present to you here on the network the most interesting live trials.
Jesse Weber: We are going to be live in Ohio in the conclusion of the Claudia Hoerig saga. Do you remember we covered the trial of this woman? She was charged with murdering her husband, Air Force Reserve Major Carl Hoerig, back in March of 2007. She then fled to her native Brazil where she remained for 10 years until she was finally extradited back to the United States to face trial. She was found guilty of aggravated murder by a jury of her peers after an incredible time of her on the stand, which we’ll talk about a little bit later on. And now begins her sentencing phase. And what we have learned is that based upon an agreement between the United States and Brazil, prosecutors will most likely recommend life in prison with parole legibility after 28 years. We’re going to talk about how that breaks down, and again, we expect the live feed in that courtroom at around 10:00 a.m. eastern standard time, but if something should happen, we’ll make sure to let you know.
Jesse Weber: Right now, our focus though is going to be on the Claudia Hoerig case. We expect to be live there again at 10:00 a.m. for the sentencing. But before we even get there, let’s go back to her trial. And really, where’s the most appropriate place that we want to start? I know where I want to start, and that’s where we’re going to start. When Claudia Hoerig, the defendant herself took the stand.
Jesse Weber: Okay, so let’s talk about when Claudia Hoerig took the stand. Brad, that was something to watch. We see a lot of defendants take the stand, and they always do differently. Do you think that she had a misconception about how our judicial system works and what she can say, what she can’t say?
Brad Micklin: I think so. I think it was a mistake for her to even take the stand in the first place. It’s never a good idea especially with a case that seems so very clear on its facts that she would do no good by testifying for herself.
Jesse Weber: But what was the idea? I mean, she was very vocal about a lot in this case, and she even at one point said she can’t get a fair trial in the United States because this isn’t Brazil. Now, it’s her choice to take the stand, so if you’re the defense attorney, what do you tell her?
Brad Micklin: I would tell her not to take the stand. You don’t have much control over that when the defendant wants to take the stand, and even though this wasn’t a death penalty case, the punishment could be so severe that you’re put into a weird place if you’re her attorney trying to advise her but letting her make the decision. And apparently, she was the one who made it.
Jesse Weber: Do think ultimately her testifying was what her downfall was?
Brad Micklin: I don’t think so. I think the crime was so heinous to begin with, I don’t think her testifying was going to affect it at all.
Jesse Weber: I want to talk more about that.
Jesse Weber: Brad, that’s really where, correct me if I’m wrong, they’re trying to establish that this was planned out. This wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment killing like she had said. But the fact that she’s transferring the money, buying the gun, this is not a garden-variety involuntary manslaughter case or something like that.
Brad Micklin: Right, right. She was trying to pretend like she was sending the money to her family because she wanted them to have it, but the timing just doesn’t work out to support that.
Jesse Weber: Now, let’s talk about the sentence, okay? That’s what we’re waiting for, we’re waiting to be live in the sentencing and see what ultimately happens. Here’s the question. Apparently, the prosecution entered into some sort of agreement with Brazil where they would recommend life in prison but with the possibility of parole after 28 years. How did they come to that?
Brad Micklin: Well, there’s a lot of negotiations with Brazil before the extradition, and they were very strong in that they wanted to make sure that one, it was going to be death penalty, and two, that she would get parole. What my understanding was that the prosecutors really said, and in most cases prosecutor can’t ever make any kind of guarantee other than to say that they were going to be fair and that the judge is impartial. So they weren’t really able to establish an exact number is my understanding.
Jesse Weber: The three years she is mandatory for firearm arm specification, so the idea was we’re going to give you a parole after 25 but add those three years because that’s mandatory because of the firearm. But isn’t something in Brazil if she were charged in Brazil and found guilty, she couldn’t serve more than 30 years? I read that that maybe that was an agreement that since she’s, you know, that was the agreement with Brazil in order to be extradited that she couldn’t serve more, that she couldn’t get life in prison without parole.
Brad Micklin: I think that’s the case. And I think they also wanted to make sure that she was given time or credit for the time served also.
Jesse Weber: Right. This doesn’t really happen. We haven’t seen a case quite like this with extradition from Brazil.
Jesse Weber: Brad, she testified for over three hours talking about this emotional abuse according to her and that she suffered miscarriages. Would this ever have worked as an effective defense against shooting a man? The fact that she had been suffering for years according to her?
Brad Micklin: In some cases it would. I mean, everybody reacts to domestic violence different, and the heat of passion defense, which is what she was trying to use, doesn’t have to be in the moment. It can be after long-standing abuse and-
Jesse Weber: But not even physical abuse. Emotional, mental abuse? That’s enough to trigger a defense?
Brad Micklin: It can be. I mean, emotional abuse can be just as damaging, sometimes even more damaging than physical abuse because it’s not noticeable, it can be ongoing, you don’t see many people that can notice it when you leave your house. So you’re almost always on your own. So it is a good defense in many cases, I just don’t think it was here.
Jesse Weber: I’m going to tell you what one of the jurors said about that in a minute.
Jesse Weber: You know, I never know what to expect when a defendant testifies, Brad, but I don’t think I ever expected her to actually say this. And the prosecutor made a good point. He’s not here to defend himself, Carl Hoerig. He’s not here, he can’t even fight any of these accusations of abuse. And that’s something I think the jury held onto.
Brad Micklin: Yeah, it’s always problematic when you’re a defendant testifying, but you’re really saying that the victim was such a bad person that it can often look to the jury like you’re just trying to stomp on a man’s grave. It often plays against the person, especially in a case like this where she testified so poorly.
Jesse Weber: After the verdict came down, one of the jurors said, in terms of Claudia’s alleged abuse, they understood that, but you should never kill someone. Get a divorce. There’s no reason to kill him. And they also said about that idea that she bought the gun to commit suicide. One of the factors that really held on for them was, if that’s the case, why did you need a laser sight on the gun?
Brad Micklin: Right. There’s no way to justify her actions. I mean, you could get around that $9,000 transfer, say maybe did want her mother and family to have the money. But she bought a gun with a scope, that’s just for aiming practice and for certainty. She wasn’t going to commit suicide. There’s no way she could have defended it.
Jesse Weber: Yeah. It’s interesting to hear nonetheless. What we’re going to do is, again, we’re keeping a careful eye on the courtroom feed. We expect to be live in that courtroom during sentencing for maybe in another half hour or so. But we’re going to continue to talk about this case.
Jesse Weber: That little part there I want to talk about, Brad. I mean, the emotions from the prosecution could really be felt. Almost like they had a stake in this. I mean, this was something that was occurring since 2007. And that idea that, yeah, she had lived with somebody else, but she didn’t kill him. And then the fiery cross-examination with Claudia Hoerig, it’s hard as being a prosecutor to not have emotion in this, correct?
Brad Micklin: Yeah, you could see that, and this victim unfortunately spent his life risking his life for everybody else, for our country. And to be taken down in such a horrible way I think really hit home for the prosecutor. You could tell he was really invested in it.
Jesse Weber: You think we’re going to see some of that emotion today during the sentencing phase?
Brad Micklin: I don’t think so. I think he’s going to take more of a calm approach, more of a methodical approach to ensure that she gets the maximum.
Jesse Weber: ‘Cause the hard part’s over, convicting her.
Brad Micklin: Right.
Jesse Weber: Let’s keep going with the prosecution’s opening statement, again, detailing why this is not anything like the defense will articulate this is some sort of involuntary manslaughter or that she just snapped, how this was planned out and it was aggravated murder.
Jesse Weber: So Brad, the prosecution’s detailing the case of aggravated murder that was planned out, she bought the gun, she was sending money off to Brazil. If you were her defense attorney, would there be a different avenue to explore than the one they had, which was mostly just putting her on the stand to explain these years of emotional and mental abuse she suffered or allegedly suffered? Would you have gone a different route?
Brad Micklin: I don’t think so, I don’t think there really any other route. It’s fortunate or unfortunate depending on where you are in a case like this that we are all very exposed to stories of domestic violence and victims of domestic violence. So, it’s something that people are ready to understand and accept. And absent that, there would have been no justification for that. No, I don’t think that was even a justification, but …
Jesse Weber: Now, we don’t know the full details of the sentencing hearing today, but the defense, do they have the opportunity to bring out witnesses and say, “Hey, let’s talk about who Claudia Hoerig really is and what was going on”?
Brad Micklin: I believe so. Most jurisdictions will allow you to have some character testimonies and mitigating factors if possible to try to reduce little of the sentence or at least increase the likelihood of parole options.
Jesse Weber: Can the judge take that into consideration?
Brad Micklin: Yes, sure.
Jesse Weber: But here with this agreement, this alleged agreement between the United States and Brazil that she can’t be charged further than life in prison with the possibility of parole after 28 years, can the judge just say, “Forget it, life in prison, no parole?”
Brad Micklin: I’m really not sure. I was looking at the agreement. I’m not sure because I believe that the prosecutor indicated that they have no control over what a judge is going to order. So I’m imaging this judge isn’t really bound by the agreement. But I’m sure he’s going to be influenced by it.
Jesse Weber: And sometimes the judge comes forward and gives kind of a message to the world at large. We know the cameras are going to be rolling, especially in this case. Do you think the judge will take a moment and speak to this dependent about her actions before handing down the sentence?
Brad Micklin: I think so. The fact that it’s televised gives obviously much broader audience than if it was just in a courtroom. And even in a courtroom with a jury present and witnesses and the media, I think a statement would be necessary so that they can educate and not have it happen again.
Jesse Weber: Maybe a statement that’s even different because this is, again, it’s different than anything we’ve ever seen considering she fled to another country. So what would the statement that the judge make, what would it be there?
Brad Micklin: Well, I would hope that he would address the use of the claim of abuse leading to this. I think he would want, or should at least try, to educate that it’s not an appropriate defense, that it can’t be used as a catchall if you have a bad marriage to go and kill somebody. I think that’s the message that you’d want to communicate or at least should communicate.
Jesse Weber: And don’t escape to another country and think that you’re going to be okay.
Brad Micklin: Right. And that the law will leave you alone.
Jesse Weber: Exactly. And here, such a remarkable case that she was extradited back to the United States. We never really see this.
Jesse Weber: Okay, that statement. I want to talk about it right there because it became so pivotal in that case. Have you ever seen a case before where one statement, if made, could lead someone to kill another person and then the jury could come back and say, well, they might have been justified, it might have created an impulse reaction? Because here’s the idea. You create a person who’s so mentally distraught, thought she was going to kill herself, threatened to kill herself, and her husband said, according to her, “Well, you know, if you’re going to do it, do it downstairs so you don’t get blood on the artwork.” Have you ever seen that actually work?
Brad Micklin: No. I guess it is possible if you brought somebody to the brink that one sentence would push them over, but that wasn’t the case here.
Jesse Weber: But even if that was the case, correct me if I’m wrong, the ballistics don’t quite match up with somebody who shot another person in the heat of the moment. Do they, Brad?
Brad Micklin: No, not at all. I mean, again, she bought the scope, she went to target practice, she shot him in the back when he was to either flee or get away from her.
Jesse Weber: And there was a whole discussion about whether or not he was at the bottom of the stairs, whether he was at the top of the stairs, whether she chased him. And her theory of how she did it didn’t quite make sense. And then in the cross-examination, she admits to firing at him one more time when he’s already on the ground. I can imagine being her defense attorney and shaking their heads.
Brad Micklin: Yeah, you’re given the facts that you have and given the defendant that you have. Sometimes you don’t have much you can do with a case like this.
Jesse Weber: Again, we’re waiting for the sentencing. So what are you going to be looking out for today when the sentencing hearing ultimately begins?
Brad Micklin: I’d be interested to see if there’s any mention to their Brazil agreement and how that would impact sentencing or whether that they’re going to just leave it in the judge’s discretion.
Jesse Weber: Okay. I’m back here with trial attorney, Brad Micklin, to break this down. Never good when a law enforcement officer talks about the statements made by the defendant. You know?
Jesse Weber: No, it’s hard to cross-examine any witness, but this is one of I think two witnesses who came forward that she made these statements. Never good.
Brad Micklin: No. I found myself wondering, I’m assuming she didn’t have her own attorney with her during this travel, which could have made complicated constitutional issues, but it sounded like she just, after certain amount of time, just started to spill everything out. They’re credible witnesses, so you can’t cross-examine them well.
Jesse Weber: It’s like what we talked about earlier, she maybe didn’t have an understanding of the United States judicial process.
Brad Micklin: I think she did because she fled the country, and she-
Jesse Weber: Well, she knew she did something wrong but maybe she didn’t understand that she had a right to an attorney or that she shouldn’t speak to these officers.
Brad Micklin: Well, it’s possible.
Jesse Weber: I mean, she went in open court in our courtroom and said she can’t get a fair trial here, this isn’t Brazil.
Brad Micklin: But she also said that when she called her father, I think it was the father who told her that there’s death penalty in Ohio, get out of the state. So she had to have an idea of how the system works when she took off.
Jesse Weber: And if this is true, I mean, presumably, because why would these witnesses lie about it? She was probably just trying to get herself off and explain what she did.
Brad Micklin: Right. ‘Cause again, like I said before, she believes, it sounds like, what she did was justified, was appropriate. So of course she’s going to tell her story without fear.
Jesse Weber: Isn’t it amazing that she was extradited back to the United States? You never see this.
Brad Micklin: No, and it took a long time, I understand. And I can’t imagine the resources that we had to commit to something like this, but it’s good to know that we do because we have an interest in protecting our citizens from these kind of situations.
Jesse Weber: I want to talk about her extradition, how that law changed and how the idea that, you know, was she a citizen of Brazil? Was she a United States citizen? We’re going to talk about that in a second.
Jesse Weber: Okay. You know what’s interesting here? I can’t help but think about this. Even if this is all true, and we already try to see if the defendant is not telling the truth, if that story is all true, isn’t that still murder?
Brad Micklin: Oh, without a doubt. And the funny, not the funny thing, but the strange thing or another aspect to this is she spent 11 years in Brazil getting ready to come back. She had to know what she was doing, she had to know what she was saying. And to go on and explain it this way, she had to have counsel before. It’s preposterous.
Jesse Weber: But did she have any idea that she would actually be taken from Brazil back to the United States? She couldn’t have known that.
Brad Micklin: No, but over the course of 11 years, she had to come to realize three was a chance. And she had to have legal counsel that whole time would have been telling her to be prepared because she was going to be tried in Brazil or here. So she had to be ready for something.
Jesse Weber: What’s interesting is … So, she was a Brazilian citizen under the Brazilian Constitution, she couldn’t actually be extradited to the United States to face charges, but the United States attorneys here in Ohio were able to convince Brazil and particularly the Brazilian Supreme Court that she renounced her citizenship back in 1999 when she became a US citizen. And in 2016, the Brazilian Supreme Court stripped her of Brazilian citizenship. This doesn’t happen, right? This is why it’s such a unique case. Have you handled extradition cases quite like this before?
Brad Micklin: No. I’ve never seen anything quite like this before. And given the gravity of her offense, it makes sense that they would try to prosecute her for so long to have her returned because we can’t have people learning that that’s an effective tool to use.
Jesse Weber: What do you think about countries that don’t allow extradition?
Brad Micklin: It’s problematic, but it’s going to depend on the situation because the country also has an interest in protecting its own citizens as well as prosecuting crimes that are committed by its citizens. So there’s always a battle between the two states or countries as to who has the greater interest.
Jesse Weber: But at the same time, you don’t want somebody killing somebody in one country, fleeing to their own country, and saying, “Hey, so, it’s all okay.”
Jesse Weber: As expected, she was sentenced to life in prison with a possibility of parole after 28 years. Let’s get some perspective right now from Brad Micklin. Brad, the judge seemed to echo a lot of the things that you and I were talking about.
Brad Micklin: Yeah. I don’t think the judge really had any choice here because if you think it through, if she hadn’t fled, she would have faced a possibility of life without parole. So because she fled, lived free for nine or 10 years, she comes back and gets actually almost a mandatory parole sentence. It would have been grossly unfair for him to do anything less.
Jesse Weber: And the judge permitted some of the family members who were affected by this killing to speak out. Really, just what a nightmare it must be for them the idea that she lived free for years. And one of them in particular said, I believe it was the brother of Carl Hoerig, that he’s going to speak out at her parole hearing in what, 28 years and be there to talk about Carl’s memory.
Brad Micklin: Yeah, the speeches were very moving. And if you noticed, they focused so much more on her actions after the murder. Obviously, they lost such a tragic member of their family, but that wasn’t their focus. It wasn’t even about their loss, it was about her actions after, her lack of remorse, her blame of everybody. They were more contentious for that conduct than it seemed to seeking more so, than the seeking punishment for the murder.
Jesse Weber: The judge caught that. The judge says the only time you really had emotion was talking about your own family, which is what we had talked about as well. And according to him, you always wonder if it would have been better to take a bench trial and not a jury, but based upon the judge’s comments, he probably would have found her guilty as well.
Brad Micklin: And look it, the one time she chooses not to speak is at sentencing.
Jesse Weber: Yeah. Let’s talk about that. So at the very beginning, her attorneys, you might have missed this, said, “She doesn’t want to say anything today, but she’s going to write a letter to the family members of Carl Hoerig and also to the media saying that she has been mischaracterized and misquoted, but she won’t make a statement today.” What did you make of that?
Brad Micklin: That was even worse because everybody’s speech was about how she’s not taking responsibility for her own actions, and even her last final speech to the court was, “I’m not going to speak because I get misquoted.” Again, she’s the victim. Her last opportunity to really show some remorse and instead she blames other people.
Jesse Weber: Yeah, and she seemed almost defiant in a way showing no emotion when these Victim impact statements were being read.
Brad Micklin: Right. And even when the sentence was being handed down.
Jesse Weber: But she also expected that was going to happen. And one of the testaments is to this extradition agreement the judge really was kind of confined in a way, couldn’t sentence her to life in prison without the possibility of parole but had to sentence her to life in prison but with parole after 25 years. 25 was one of the minimums, and then you add the three years for the firearm specification so pretty interesting.
Jesse Weber: Welcome back everybody, we’re still reacting to the sentence that was just handed down against Claudia Hoerig. She was just sentenced by the judge to life in prison with the possibility of parole eligibility after 28 years. Exciting day in the courtroom and I want to play some of the moments that you may have missed. First thing we saw was the statement from the defense attorney, let’s see what he had to say in case you missed it.
Jesse Weber: Brad, what did you make of that statement? Really, they’re saying that she should be given a lesser sentence, and the way they do it is that they just quickly throw in the idea of mental health and this and that and this and that.
Brad Micklin: I mean, there is very little they can argue with. I mean, aside from the extradition agreement, she admitted to killing her husband. But the worst part, or one of the worst parts, was her speech that was written, even was more concerned about the media. She referenced the media several times. They-
Jesse Weber: Was she talking about us?
Brad Micklin: Probably. She probably knows you’re interviewing us today. But it showed no concern even for the act, no remorse, nothing at all. It was just the worst I’ve ever seen in a closing.
Jesse Weber: What struck me about that was the attorney saying, “We recognize that one of her murders committed, it’s such a tragedy.” Claudia doesn’t. Not Miss Hoerig. And there is that discrepancy again, she did not make a statement today.
Brad Micklin: Right. And he also said, I think, that she plans to address it later, that she’s going to address everybody. I guess she wanted to stay quiet, let the sentence come down, and then say whatever she wants.
Jesse Weber: She was vocal in jail awaiting her trial, she was vocal in the courtroom when she took the stand. I mean, I want to read this letter. I really want to read this letter. And when we get it, maybe we’ll get a chance to talk about it here on the network. But before we even get there, let’s continue on with today when again, this is now the prosecution providing their statement before sentencing.
Jesse Weber: Were you surprised they didn’t provide a bigger statement which we’ve seen in sentencings before?
Brad Micklin: No, because they provided memorandum in advance, so the judge had all the information well-thought-out. I think the prosecutor wanted to let the family go forward, let the judge make his decision and not draw it out any longer.
Jesse Weber: Then again, they’ve been so passionate in this case during the openings, the closing when they cross-examined her. This was may be their final attempt to speak on behalf of everybody and behalf of the state about what they thought of Claudia Hoerig.
Brad Micklin: Yeah. Perhaps they didn’t think they needed it, I think between the agreement and the testimony that I think they were confident where the case was going to go.
Jesse Weber: Is there also the fear that let’s not even put the family through anymore. Let’s not even have them have to be in this carton with her for one second longer than need be.
Brad Micklin: I think that was some of it. I think they wanted to get to the conclusion, let everybody move forward.
Jesse Weber: How unbelievably selfless can you be, the idea they want her locked up for the rest of her life?
Brad Micklin: Mm-hmm.
Jesse Weber: But what does he say? We will respect the idea of this extradition agreement that she could receive parole eligibility in almost 30 years. I mean that is unbelievable.
Brad Micklin: And then he goes to say he would support her being paroled at that time if she takes responsibility. It was an outstanding speech.
Jesse Weber: He said he was going to be there. And it’s never easy making these statements, is it?
Brad Micklin: No.
Jesse Weber: I mean, there’s so much to think about. You’re talking about 12 years since then.
Brad Micklin: Right. I mean-
Jesse Weber: So yeah.
Brad Micklin: … they take their time, obviously, to write it out. But the emotion of the last 12 years has to come flooding back when you start to read it.
Jesse Weber: And the common theme is that she just never took responsibility. That’s the biggest thing.
Brad Micklin: Right. I think that’s what everybody wanted to see at some point, and that’s obviously what the brother’s going to want to see over the course of the next 28, 30 years.
Jesse Weber: Our camera was on Claudia Hoerig while these statements were going on. Hard to know what’s going on in her mind. Do you get the sense that she still feels like the victim, that she still feels she did nothing wrong?
Brad Micklin: I think absolutely. I think her refusal to make any statement, even the statement that her attorney read addressing her future conversations to the media and her stoic presence just all suggested she still thinks she’s the victim.
Jesse Weber: Is she evil?
Brad Micklin: She’s cold and malice. Yeah, she looks evil.
Jesse Weber: Now, I don’t know if I heard this right. I think we have to rewind the tape. I might have missed it. Did you hear that she maybe got married in Brazil in those 10 years that she was there living a full life?
Brad Micklin: Yeah, that’s what the brother said. She got married and started a business. It looked like she was having a great life over there. And then when she comes back to the US, she filed a motion to dismiss for lack of speedy trial.
Jesse Weber: You mentioned that before. The idea of whether or not she knew she was going to be coming back to the United States. She knew it.
Brad Micklin: She had to know.
Jesse Weber: She kept fighting it.
Brad Micklin: Right, for 12 years, she fought it tooth and nail.
Jesse Weber: Yes, but she’s probably shocked that this is her fate.
Brad Micklin: Mm-hmm. ‘Cause she is the victim.
Jesse Weber: Now, what happens to her?
Brad Micklin: I think they take her off to prison while she appeals it.
Jesse Weber: And do you think she has any chance of a successful appeal?
Brad Micklin: No. ‘Cause she admitted it. There’s no way around that.
Jesse Weber: What would be the grounds?
Brad Micklin: No. Well, there’s always, you can make a ground, but there couldn’t be any justifiable reason to overturn that.
Jesse Weber: Brad Micklin, thanks so much for coming on to talk about-
Brad Micklin: Thanks for having me, Jesse.
Jesse Weber: … this really bizarre case.
Brad Micklin: My pleasure. Thanks.
Jesse Weber: Maybe I’ll have you on if that letter comes out where she writes to the media. Maybe she’ll write about us, talking about her.
Brad Micklin: I’ll be glad to come back.
Jesse Weber: We’ll definitely talk about it. Brad, thanks for coming on.
Brad Micklin: Thank you.