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Discretionary Judgment

Updated on April 23, 2014

“The police have choices about what, when, how, and whom to detect, investigate, or arrest. The existence of choices means that the police have discretion in these decisions” (Travis, 2012, p. 165). On October 18th a women named Annybelkis Terrero was arrested by the Boynton Beach police. According to the Boynton Beach police department she was arrested for trying to hire a hit man to kill her husband and one of her friends. I feel that the Boynton Beach police used their discretionary judgment during their investigation into Annybelkis Terrero.

Annybelkis Terrero became a confidential informant for the Boynton Beach police when they came to her house after their neighbors told the police that they suspected she was using drugs. Annybelkis Terrero agreed to become an informant and to take the police to a drug dealer. While driving to the drug dealer’s house Annybelkis Terrero told the police “that she hated her husband, Neil Logan, 57, and had a plan for his death” (Seltzer, 2013). The officers made the decision to view Annybelkis Terrero as a serious threat when they began their investigation into her plan to have her husband killed.

The officers used their discretionary judgment when they told Annybelkis Terrero that they knew someone who could help her kill her husband. This was a case of discretionary judgment because it was the officers’ choice to both take her threat seriously and to use this method of investigation. At this point Annybelkis Terrero gave the “two officers stolen credit cards as a down payment for the deal and told them to use the cards quickly because they were hot” (Seltzer, 2013). The Boynton Beach police department used their discretionary judgment again when they decided to use a sting operation. A sting operation is when the “police pretend to be criminals to gain the trust of offenders until they have sufficient evidence to make an arrest” (Travis, 2012, p. 165). In this case a police officer pretended to be a hit-man so as to get Annybelkis Terrero to state that she wanted her husband and friend dead. Annybelkis Terrero gave the undercover officer a fully loaded Remington shotgun, ammunition, and the promise of $30,000 from her husband’s life insurance as payment for the hit-man to kill her husband and friend. The officers again used their discretionary judgment when they decided to arrest Annybelkis Terrero instead of trying to collect more evidence.

I feel that the police officers made their determinations about what to do next at the right points in time. This case did not allow the officers’ time to discuss what they should do next when Annybelkis Terrero told them she wanted her husband dead. I feel that the first two judgments made were correct; the officers used their street knowledge to make a split second decision that the threat was serious. However the courts decided not to file criminal charges against Annybelkis Terrero; this leads me to believe that the police may have been better off investigating the case further and gathering more evidence about the potential crime.

I believe that it is typical for officers to make these types of decisions at the point they did during the case. For instance, the officers decided to take Annybelkis Terrero seriously when she stated she had a plan to kill her husband; this would be a typical spot for an officer to decide to investigate. Murder is a serious crime and the fact that Annybelkis Terrero was a drug user could lead the officers to the conclusion that she could be mentally ill or unstable. Statistics show that about 40% of women who commit murder are mentally ill or unstable (Blackwell, 2012). Knowing this, it would be considered typical for officers to begin an undercover operation to determine if she was serious about wanting someone dead. It would be considered typical for the police at this point to decide to encourage, but not entrap, Annybelkis Terrero into hiring a hit-man that was an undercover officer to acquire evidence that she was willing to have her husband and friend killed.

Do you think the police used their Discretionary Judgment?

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References:

Bagg, M. (November 14, 2013). Annybelkis Terrero: Boynton Beach woman to be released from

jail; no charges in murder-for-hire case. In News Channel 5. Retrieved from

http://www.wptv.com/dpp/news/region_s_palm_beach_county/boynton_beach/annybelki

-terreroboynton-beach-woman-to-be-released-from-jail-no-charges-in-murder-for-hire-

case.

Blackwell, T. (March 10, 2012). Women who killed husbands ‘rarely gave a warning,’ and most

weren’t abused, study finds. In National Post. Retrieved from

http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/10/03/women-rarely-gave-a-warning-before-killing-

their-mates-and-most-didnt-suffer-abuse-study-finds/.

Seltzer, A. (October 19, 2013). Boynton Beach woman, 38, accused of hiring undercover agents

to kill two men. In The Palm Beach Post. Retrieved from

http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/news/boynton-beach-woman-38-accused-of-hiring-

undercove/nbRSh/.

Travis III, L. (2012). Introduction to Criminal Justice. (7th Ed.). Boston: Anderson Publishing

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