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Why Does It Matter Who Prosecutes a Murder Case in LA?

Posted by Ronald D. Hedding, ESQ. | Nov 14, 2022

Having handled California Penal Code 187 PC murder cases for the last 30 years, I'm intimately familiar with how they're prosecuted in Los Angeles County, how the police investigate them, and how prosecutors charge them.

It matters because they will put the best of the best in these cases.  So, let's say a robbery occurs, and somebody dies during the robbery.  Robbery homicide are the best detectives for LAPD, and they'll put the best detectives for the sheriff's department if they have the jurisdiction.

Why Does It Matter Who Prosecutes a Murder Case in Los Angeles?

Those guys have the technology, training, and experience to investigate these cases and put much time, effort, and money into them.

Also, some special prosecutors deal with these cases.  They're not just going to use any prosecutor to prosecute a PC 187 murder case in Los Angeles.  They will use the best—seasoned and trained people who have handled cases like this before.

So, what that should mean to you as it relates to yourself if you're charged with murder or your loved one might be accused of murder is that you better get the best criminal defense attorney to compete against all of this money.

All these prosecutors and police will put time, effort, and technology into the case.  It's incredible how much technology these guys use.  They've got wiretaps, ping evidence tracking cellphones through cell towers, and DNA – they have different tools they can use to prove a murder case. Let's take a closer look below.

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.” Numerous circumstances determine whether someone accused of murder will be charged with first-degree or second-degree murder. The legal penalties for each degree of murder can differ widely.

California only recognizes first-degree and second-degree murder. Any killings that fall beneath the threshold of “malice aforethought” are classified as voluntary, involuntary, or vehicular manslaughter (Penal Code 192 PC) rather than a lesser degree of murder.

The definition of the degrees of murder is codified in Penal Code 189 PC:

  • “All murder perpetrated using a destructive device or explosive, lying in wait, torture, or any willful, deliberate, and premeditated killing, or committed to complete 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, or intentionally shooting at someone with the intent to inflict death, is a murder of the first degree. All other types of murders are of the second degree.”

A PC 187 first-degree murder conviction can result in 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,” you might face a sentence of life in prison sentence without parole.

To charge somebody with a Penal Code 187 murder, a prosecutor must prove they killed them with malice or forethought, meaning they thought about it and planned it. Second-degree murder is also willful but not deliberate, and there was no premeditation.

What Is First-Degree Murder?

First-degree murder is one of the most severe criminal charges in California. It is legally defined as unlawful killing with malice aforethought that was premeditated, committed in a particular manner, or in the process of committing other felony offenses.

According to Penal Code 189 PC, first-degree murder occurs under any of the following circumstances:

  • The murder was premeditated, planned, and deliberate;
  • The murderer lay in wait for the victim;
  • The murder was related to torture;
  • The murder was committed using poison, explosives, metal-penetrating ammo, or weapon of mass destruction;
  • The murder occurred during the commission of one or more certain felonies, called felony murder.

The list of felony crimes that qualify a killing as first-degree murder includes the following:

  • Arson,
  • Burglary,
  • Carjacking,
  • Kidnapping,
  • Mayhem,
  • Robbery,
  • Torture,
  • Mayhem,
  • Rape or other sex crimes, such as sodomy, forced oral copulation, sexual penetration with a foreign object, and lewd acts with a minor.

What is Second-Degree Murder?

Second-degree murder is not premeditated or deliberate but occurs due to extreme recklessness, making it more severe than a manslaughter charge.

Instead, a perpetrator acted recklessly so that any reasonable person would know it would likely result in death.

Penalties for second-degree murder are 15 years to life in state prison, but there are aggravating circumstances that could apply:

  • If the murder was committed by shooting from a vehicle (drive-by shooting), the sentence is 20 years to life;
  • If the murder is gang-related, then enhancements will apply as defined under Penal Code 186.22 PC;
  • If a defendant has prior murder convictions, the sentence could be increased to life imprisonment without parole;
  • If the victim is a police officer, the sentence increases to 25 to life.

Contact the Hedding Law Firm for Help

So, if you or a loved one is being prosecuted for murder, the reason the best is on it is that it is the highest crime known to man, and that's why they're going to put the best people on the case to try to make sure that justice is done.

Los Angeles Murder Defense Lawyer

You need to ensure that your loved one is defended, or if you're charged with murder, you better secure your attorney is the best.

I've been handling murder cases now for 30 years.  I worked for the district attorney's office to get a feel for how they prosecute cases early in my career in 1992.

Then, in 1993, I worked for a superior court judge in Burbank as his right-hand man, and then finally, in 1994, I became a criminal defense attorney and had been defending people just like you since then.

I've been handling murder cases since then.  I've had much success.  I know how to fight these cases.  I know how to deal with some of the investigative techniques that prosecutors and police are using.

Sometimes we have to get our experts to challenge some of these technologies, tools, and experts used to prosecute criminal defendants in murder cases.

So, if you want the best, you've 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 offers a free case consultation.

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.