I can tell you right now that California Penal Code 187 PC murder cases are serious business and when someone has lost their life. Prosecutors do everything they can to make sure they get the conviction.
If they think you or your loved one is the one that murdered or is involved with the murder, they will spend as much money as they need to, and they will hire experts to prove the case.
When the experts are relevant in murder cases – and they're not always applicable – it's usually some testimony that requires somebody that knows what they're doing, has the skill, and has special knowledge.
For example, let's say that DNA is found at the scene of a crime, and they're trying to match the DNA to the person they have charged with the murder. What they're going to do is get an expert.
They will take the DNA from the defendant they think is involved. They're going to take the DNA from the crime scene, and they're going to analyze it to determine whether or not the DNA matches.
They'll hire a DNA expert to look at everything. Then they'll have that expert testify, usually at the preliminary hearing and the trial, to prove the DNA matches, and of course, depending on where that DNA is and how it is relevant to the case, that will drive how important it is.
Analyzing Cell Phone Data
Another area where I see experts used in murder cases is cell phones, be it following people around, going into their houses – whatever the case may be – or even burglary; if a murder occurs, I'm seeing cellphone experts.
Now they have this company called Cellebrite. These guys can figure out where the phone is that they're trying to track at or around the time of the murder.
They can't get an exact hit on the phone. All they can do is get an impact on the tower close to the phone and then have a range of where that phone might be.
That's one thing I get these guys a lot. They can't say precisely where the phone is. All they are doing is seeing what towers the phone is bouncing off of, and from there, they're able to get an idea of where the phone might be, but they can't get precisely where it is.
But that's another area where experts are used to trying to track the defendant or defendants to prove that they're at or around the murder scene.
What Are the Degrees of Murder in California?
In California, murder is defined under Penal Code 187 PC as killing another person “with malice aforethought.” Different circumstances determine whether someone is charged with first-degree or second-degree murder.
Killings that fall under the threshold of “malice aforethought” are deemed voluntary, involuntary, or Penal Code 192 PC vehicular manslaughter, rather than lesser degrees of murder.
The penalties for each of these degrees of murder can differ widely. The definition of the degrees of murder is codified in Penal Code 189 PC, which says the following:
- “All murder committed using a destructive device or explosive, a weapon of mass destruction, poison, lying in wait, torture, or another willful, deliberate, and premeditated killing or committed for arson, rape, carjacking, robbery, burglary, mayhem, kidnapping, or any act under Section 206, 286, 288, 288a, or 289, or murder perpetrated by use of discharging a firearm from a motor vehicle, intentionally at somebody with the intent to inflict death, is the murder of the first degree. All other kinds of murders are of the second degree.”
A first-degree murder conviction carries a sentence of 25 years to life in state prison. If the killing was related to torture or lying in wait, called a “special circumstance,” a defendant could face a life sentence without parole.
The penalties for second-degree murder are 15 years to life in state prison, but some aggravating circumstances may increase this sentence.
For example, If the murder was committed by shooting from a vehicle, called a drive-by shooting, then the sentence is 20 years to life. If the murder were related to a criminal street gang, the enhancements would apply as defined under Penal Code 186.22 PC.
If the defendant has prior murder convictions, the prison sentence could be increased to life imprisonment without parole. If the victim is a police officer, the sentence could be increased to 25 years to life.
Retain an Experienced Murder Defense Lawyer
So, several types of experts are used in these Penal Code 187 PC murder cases, and you want to ensure you have an attorney who knows how to deal with these cases, and we may need to hire an expert to challenge some of these experts.
There are all sorts of different things that can come up in murder cases, and you want to make sure that you're prepared and thought of every single angle that may be available to a criminal defendant because you're only usually going to get one chance to defend the case the right way.
You don't need to worry about appeals. You want to try to do everything right the first time. You make sure you get the best possible result.
So, if you need an attorney with 30 years of experience who has worked for the district attorney's office, worked for a superior court judge, and is ready to work for you since the early 1990s, you have come to the right place.
Pick up the phone now. Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding. I stand at the ready to help you. The Hedding Law Firm provides a free case evaluation by phone or fill out the contact form. We are located in Los Angeles, California.