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Best Defense Strategies for PC 187 Murder Cases at CCB Court

Posted by Ronald D. Hedding, ESQ. | Dec 06, 2022

I've handled many California Penal Code 187 PC murder cases over the past 30 years at the CCB criminal courthouse in downtown Los Angeles at 210 West Temple, also known as the Clara Foltz Courthouse.

So, I have much experience figuring out how to handle these cases.  You have to realize that when you're talking about murder, they're going against the best police officers assigned to the case in LA County and also the best prosecutors.

They are usually the most seasoned, the ones that have been working for a long time, and all they pretty much do is prosecute murder cases – high profile cases – so they know how to deal with these cases, and they know how to put you, or a loved one, in a bad position.

What you need to do is hire the best possible criminal defense attorney there is.  Unfortunately, a lot of defense attorneys are afraid to handle these murder cases because of the stakes that are on the line.

The person usually faces upwards of 25 to life when it comes to a murder case, so many attorneys don't have the stomach for it. Our California criminal defense lawyers will review this topic in more detail below.

Preliminary Hearing in Murder Cases

I can't tell you how many times I get on a murder case at CCB, the Clara Foltz Courthouse in downtown LA, and the family and client are telling me the other attorney can't handle this type of case, so they can't be on it anymore.

So, all they did was take the case through prelim, and then they got off it.  This is a horrible result because a preliminary hearing in a murder case in downtown LA is a crucial part of the defense.

Witnesses are testifying under penalty of perjury.  You can see the prosecution's theory.  You can attack their witnesses.

Sometimes you can get the case dismissed or reduced, and some of these lesser lawyers taking these cases and just doing the preliminary hearing and then getting off the case are not right.

On the other hand, if you hire a lawyer to do the preliminary hearing, they do an excellent job for you.

Then they quote you a fee to do the trial if that's what you choose to do or your loved one does; then you have to pay that lawyer if you want them to continue because trials on these murder cases in downtown LA are a very tricky thing.

What Does the Law Say About Penal Code 187 PC Murder?

The California homicide law separates the act of killing somebody into murder or manslaughter and first and second-degree.

California Penal Code 187 PC Murder

Penal Code 187 PC defines the severe felony of murder as “the unlawful killing of a human being or fetus with malice aforethought.

First-degree murder includes all premeditated killings and felony murder, where someone dies during the commission of a rape, robbery, carjacking, or other serious crime.

A conviction for first-degree murder would carry 25 years to life in prison unless the killing involved lying in wait, torture, or another special circumstance. You then face life in prison without parole or capital punishment.

Second-degree murder is murder with no premeditation. If convicted, you face a sentence of 15 years to life. Murder requires malice, defined as:

  • The mental state of malice aforethought doesn't require any ill will against a victim. When a defendant “with wanton disregard for human life, does an act involving a high degree of probability that it will result in death,' they acted with malice aforethought.”

Manslaughter, defined by California Penal Code 192 PC, is a less severe form of homicide. Penal Code 192(a) states that voluntary manslaughter is an unplanned, heat-of-passion killing.  If convicted, you face up to 11 years in state prison.

Penal Code 192(b) involuntary manslaughter is described as an unintended death resulting from extremely risky behavior, referred to as a “conscious disregard of human life.” In convicted, you are facing up to four years in state prison.

What Are the Related Offenses?

  • Penal Code 187 PC – DUI Watson murder,
  • Penal Code 664/187 PC – attempted murder,
  • Penal Code 16100 PC – drive-by shooting,
  • Penal Code 246 PC – shooting at an inhabited dwelling or car,
  • Penal Code 653f PC – solicitation to commit a crime.

CCB Courthouse 9th Floor

If the case takes a long time, they will usually send it to the 9th floor, where they try all the significant severe cases.  They've got extra security up there and a bunch of rules to deal with people coming to watch these cases in downtown Los Angeles.

Really, what dictates whether it's going to be tried on the 9th floor is the length of time that the murder case is going to take.  If it's going to be 3, 4, or 5 days, they're not going to try it on the 9th floor.

But if it's going to take 2, 3, 4, or 5 weeks, that's a different story.  They're typically going to send it to those judges, who all they do for the most part is handle trials.  So they can give you a better schedule.

They're not going to be working 10:30 to 4:00.  They're going to try to work earlier, at 8:30, 9:00, and 9:30, and have a lot less of a caseload to be able to handle these murder cases.

How to Get Mental Health Diversion in a Criminal Case?

A mental health diversion in California under Penal Code 1001.36 PC is a tool that has come upon the scene in criminal law to help those with mental issues and who commit crimes. 

Sometimes, people have both mental issues and substance abuse issues, and the mental health diversion program can work to try to help them with their problems and even protect their criminal record under the right circumstances.

This mental health diversion is all about when somebody commits a crime and during the commission of that crime, they are operating under some mental issue:

  • That's criteria one – a person must have a mental issue;
  • Criteria number two is that the mental issue has to be why that particular individual is committing the crime they're charged with;
  • The judge will also look to see whether or not that person is a danger to society in evaluating whether they will be amenable to mental health diversion.

Several angles are at play here, but if you or a loved one has committed a crime and you believe mental issues are involved. If you think your crime was committed because of those mental issues and they're diagnosed with mental problems, you may have a chance to get mental health diversion. 

Filing a Motion in Court

A motion must be filed with the judge so that the judge reviews it, and then your attorney argues for you to see if you're eligible for mental health diversion. 

The prosecutor gets to argue what they feel is related to the circumstances of the case. So, for example, I often see the prosecutors arguing that they don't believe the person's mental health issues are why they committed the crime. That's one thing we must be ready to deal with regarding trying to get mental health diversion.

The good thing about it is that if you get it, it helps you with whatever ailment you have, and also, in the end, if you're successful, you can attempt to get a dismissal of your criminal case and protect your criminal record.

If you or a loved one is charged with a crime and you think mental health diversion might make sense, put my 30 years of experience to work for you.  

Why You Need a Battle-Tested Defense Lawyer

But the critical thing for you is if you or a loved one has a murder case at CCB, you have to get a battle-tested attorney.

Murder Defense Lawyer in Los Angeles

I've been doing this for 30 years, handling murder cases in CCB and across Los Angeles.

I know what it takes to defend these cases.  I know what it takes to fight prosecutors to be able to examine these witnesses, detectives, and other witnesses that are called experts in DNA, ballistics, and whatever the case may be.

These are the type of murder cases that the prosecutors go all out on.  They use the government's resources, which are pretty much limited regarding criminal murder cases.

So, you've got to be able to counter with an attorney who can also get experts, if necessary, to challenge some of the prosecution's evidence.

You've come to the right place.  I've been doing this for a long time.  I've got much experience handling murder cases in downtown Los Angeles.

If you or your loved one needs the best, pick up the phone now and ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding. We offer a free case consultation by phone or fill out the contact form.

About the Author

Ronald D. Hedding, ESQ.

Ronald D. Hedding, Esq., is the founding member of the Hedding Law Firm. Mr. Hedding has an extensive well-rounded legal background in the area of Criminal Law. He has worked for the District Attorney's Office, a Superior Court Judge, and as the guiding force behind the Hedding Law Firm. His multi-faceted experience sets Mr. Hedding apart and puts him in an elite group of the best Criminal Defense Attorneys in Southern California.