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How Do You Choose a Lawyer If Charged with PC 187 Murder?

Posted by Ronald D. Hedding, ESQ. | Nov 16, 2022

California Penal Code 187 PC murder is the highest crime known to man, so the best prosecutors and investigators will be assigned to the case.  You will need the best attorney to defend you or your loved one in a murder case.

Murder is defined as the unlawful killing of somebody or a fetus with malice aforethought. First-degree murder includes all premeditated killings and felony murder that involves a scenario where someone dies during a carjacking, robbery, rape, or other serious crimes.

How Do You Choose a Lawyer If Charged with PC 187 Murder?

A PC 187 first-degree murder conviction means a defendant will face a sentence of 25 years to life in state prison. If the killing involved lying in wait, called a “special circumstance,” they could be sentenced to life without parole.

Murder cases usually involve a motive, which is not required to obtain a conviction. The prosecutor must prove that a defendant killed someone with malice or forethought.  This means they thought about it or planned it.

Here in Los Angeles county, they use special prosecutors for murder cases. They also have special police units, for example, a robbery/homicide unit will investigate murder cases, and they have a ton of resources.

If the murder didn't involve premeditation, it would usually be charged as second-degree murder, which carries a sentence of 15 years to life in prison.

Under PC 187, second-degree murder is a willful act, not deliberate or premeditated. Second-degree murder is any murder that doesn't fall under the definition of first-degree murder. Let's review this topic further below.

What Are the Sentencing Enhancements?

The Penal Code 12022.53 “Use a Gun and You're Done” sentencing enhancement imposes penalties for gun violations:

  • Use of a firearm means a prison term of up to 10 years will be added to the prison sentence if a gun was used in the commission of PC 187 murder. The term “use a gun” is defined broadly.
  • Firing a gun during the commission of a crime will include an additional 20-year sentencing enhancement. By law, discharging a firearm means someone intentionally fired the weapon by pulling the trigger.
  • Causing great bodily injury or death when using a firearm enhances a prison sentence to 25 years to life. This enhancement applies to someone who intentionally discharges a weapon committing a felony crime. A great bodily injury means a significant physical injury.

California Senate Bill 1437

Senate Bill 1437 changed California's felony murder rule and provided convicted defendants of felony murder or murder under the natural and probable consequences doctrine to seek resentencing in their case.

It could allow the release of inmates in state prisons. SB 1437 changes the felony murder rule to allow resentencing for accomplices already convicted of first-degree murder.

A classic example of the felony murder rule includes a situation where there are two defendants convicted of murder after robbing a convenience store. Suppose one of them pulled out a gun and shot and killed the cashier during the robbery, but there was no prior plan, known as “premeditation.”

Under the prior law, the other robber could also be charged and convicted of first-degree murder even though he didn't kill the cashier.  Under SB 1437, only the perpetrator directly responsible for the killing can be accused of murder.

Criminal Defense Attorney Specializing in Murder Cases

Over the past 30 years, I've done many murder cases in LA and surrounding counties.  These are grave crimes, and you're going to want to get an attorney with much experience because, typically, what I see happening is that the prosecutors are the best that the DA's office has on these murder cases. 

Also, the law enforcement that investigates them is typically top-level.  So, you want an attorney that can match forces with these individuals to ensure you're, at minimum, on level ground with them.  Hopefully, your attorney is better than the prosecutor, so you have an up regarding you or your loved one defending a murder case.

The investigation is an integral part of murder cases because, many times, the police do what I would characterize as a one-sided investigation, meaning they only look at things that help their case.  They don't look at things that might help the defendant in their case. 

So, if that happens in your particular case, and some investigation needs to be done – whether it be contacting witnesses or looking into some of the evidence the prosecutors are claiming they're going to use to prove the case against you, that is a critical tenant of the best murder defense attorney because they know how to investigate and whom to talk to.  They've got the people necessary to thoroughly into your case.

I think another important aspect of murder cases is experts.  What I mean by that is a lot of these murder cases, they're using their best technology – whether it be video technology, DNA technology, cellphone technology – the list goes on. 

They're going to use these things to try and prove the case. So, number one, you need an attorney who knows how to deal with the prosecutor's techniques and get their expert, if necessary, to challenge the prosecutor's expert. 

Your attorney must be able to challenge it themselves – cross-examine the expert and point out some of the technology's problems. For example, they love using cellphone technology, and the expert always makes it sound like the cellphone is being tracked and followed precisely where the location.

But the reality is that when it comes to cellphone technology, the phone is pinging off a tower or towers in the area of the phone. Sometimes it's a mile to three miles.  Sometimes it could be five miles, and sometimes a smaller distance, depending on how crowded the location is where the cellphone is pinging off.

So, the bottom line is that you can't let the expert get away with trying to claim that you or your loved one's phone is in a particular area when they cannot precisely track where a phone is. So, that's just one example of what they attempt to do in these murder cases to make their case. 

You need a champion to be able to fight against that.  You also need somebody who has much experience because many lawyers are scared to do murder cases.

I see them get on the case at the preliminary hearing, and then they tell the client, once they realize they are facing the rest of their life in prison, that they can't do the case anymore. 

They're not going to go that far in this case. So therefore, they need to hire another attorney, which of course, makes no sense because you want to have a good attorney doing your preliminary hearing that knows what they're doing that can not only exploit some of the problems with the prosecutor's case but can also lay the groundwork for your defense in the case. 

So, there are a lot of different things that the best murder defense attorneys can do. But, I think the biggest thing we bring to bear is the experience – having done case after case after case and seeing how the prosecutors deal with these cases, interact with the jury, interact with the Judge, and know what it takes to win.

Initial Meeting with Murder Defense Lawyer

You choose to meet with the murder defense attorney.  You want to make sure you feel comfortable with the attorney because that's going to be the attorney that's going to be negotiating the case with the prosecutors or trying the case in front of a jury and trying to get a not-guilty verdict.

So, feeling good about the attorney – looking at the attorney eyeball to eyeball – coming in with a list of questions. I think it is always a good idea, that way; you can get a feel for whom you're dealing with.

If you like the attorney and feel comfortable, then the prosecutors and jury will probably like the attorney. If, on the other hand, you get a bad vibe from the attorney and don't think that attorney is going to help you or your loved one, then obviously, you've got your decision made.

No. 1 is to get that face-to-face contact with the attorney.  Make sure you feel comfortable with them. No. 2, you've got to look at that attorney's experience:

  • How long have they been practicing?
  • How many murder cases have they done?
  • What type of experience do they have?
  • Have they always just been a prosecutor or always a defense attorney?
  • What kind of reviews do they have?
  • What are people saying about them?
  • Can they handle a challenging case?
  • Do they look like the type of person that can fight for you?

In other words, do they have the overall complete package type of experience?  Look at their results.

Murder Defense Lawyer in Los Angeles

When you go and meet with that attorney, talk to them about some of the cases that they've had success with because that's going to give you a good idea of whether or not this is the type of attorney that you need for you or your loved one on a murder case.

I can tell you right now, having defended murder cases for 30 years, I worked for the district attorney's office in east Los Angeles early in my career.

I worked for a superior court judge in Burbank in the 1990s and for the State Bar's JNE commission, which was assigned to rate people as potential judges to see what the governor would do about picking them.

So, I've got a pleasant, well-rounded experience.  I've handled many murder cases.  I've had much success.  I've felt murder cases all over Los Angeles county.

If you need the best, you've come to the right place.  Pick up the phone now and ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding. I founded the Hedding Law Firm. We offer a free case evaluation 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.