This is obviously a very important question for those individuals whose family are charged with murder or even for the individual themselves who is charged with one of the highest crimes known to man, which is murder. The person is usually going to be looking at 15 to life or 25 to life if they use a weapon. I've even seen 50 to life — 25 for the premeditated murder charge and then another 25 for using a gun, for example, to shoot and kill somebody. In California, murder is described under Penal Code 187.
Defense Strategies on California Murder Charges
The way you beat these cases is #1, your obviously going to have to have some sort of defense; and #2, you're going to need an attorney who has a lot of experience and success in executing defenses in murder cases. A lot of these murder cases are not always what meets the eye.
The prosecutors and the police would love to have you believe, it's clear the person's guilty. It's just a matter of us putting on our evidence and we're going to win the case.
But once you start doing some investigation and look at the case for what it really is and the motives involved, and what the other party did or didn't do, and you really get a feel for the case, a lot of times these murder cases aren't really murder cases, shouldn't have been filed as murder cases.
But, bet your bottom dollar, it's going to take an experienced seasoned criminal defense attorney who has had years of dealing with murder cases in Los Angeles. I've had cases all over the map and have dealt with a lot of murder cases in the twenty-five years that I've been practicing criminal defense and I've had a lot of success.
The reason I've had success is because I have a lot of experience doing trials in murder cases and other violent crimes and it plays to my talent as an attorney and as a person and I know which cases can be won at trial and which cases cannot be won at trial.
That's probably one of the first and most important things you have to decide in a murder case if you want to try to beat it is, do you have the ability to win the whole thing? In other words, can you justify what your client did or didn't do and show a jury that they're not guilty? If that's the case, obviously you take the case to trial and you fight it out.
Sometimes though it's a little bit more complicated than that. In other words, maybe your client is not necessarily guilty of murder, he or she is guilty of something lesser than murder. In that case, you're going to be asking the judge at the end of the case for a lesser-related charge to murder so that you can argue to the jury that should be what the person is convicted of, not a murder conviction. That's one angle.
Another angle is, your client didn't do anything wrong. Maybe they have the wrong person for example. Under that circumstance, you're going to try to argue that they don't have the evidence to prove the murder charges against your client. You're going to obviously put on your own case. You're going to attack the prosecutor's case and you're going to do everything you can to have your client found not guilty.
Other times, you have a defense to the crime. In other words, if it's self-defense for example or some other complete defense and it's a justifiable homicide or justifiable actions by your client, then instead of murder it's a homicide — meaning somebody died but they didn't die under unlawful circumstances. A lot of times you can prove that and you have a complete defense to the crime.
These are some things that need to be talked about right from the beginning of the case. You can't talk about these things after the fact.
You can't talk about these things during the jury trial. You need to talk about them from the beginning so you can decide exactly how the murder case is going to be defended, because there's a lot of different ways to defend these cases.
Winning these case is going to take a multi-prong attack. In other words, it's going to take figuring out what the best defense is; figuring out whether you're trying to fight for a lesser included charge; or whether you're trying to get a complete not guilty verdict.
Once that's decided, then you do the investigation. You set up the witnesses. You set up the angles to attack the prosecutor's case through an effective cross-examination.
I'm also going to be discussing whether or not the client will be testifying in the murder trial if that makes sense. Sometimes we don't make that decision until we hear the prosecutor's entire case and then we decide, if you testify in the case how is that going to help us?
How is it going to make a difference to the good if you go up on the stand? What evidence can we get from you that is going to help us defend this murder charge if you take the stand?
Evaluating The Details of Your Case
Once we evaluate that and we decide that you're evidence will be something that is going to help us, then obviously we're going to put you up on the stand. We're going to prepare you. You're going to be able to tell your side of the story.
But, of course, you're going to have to be ready to be in a position where you are able to be cross-examined by the prosecutors. In other words, it's not just gong to be good enough for you to tell your story, you're going to be subjected to challenge. They're going to ask you a bunch of questions.
Obviously, we will have gone over everything and be prepared so that you can answer the questions the right way and get your defense out there to do everything you can to try to beat your murder charge.