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Why Are There Such Few Good Murder Defense Attorneys In Los Angeles County?

Posted by Ronald D. Hedding, ESQ. | Feb 23, 2019

It's my opinion after having practiced criminal defense for twenty-five years now, worked for the District Attorney's office, worked for a Superior Court Judge and have my own practice since 1994 — so, I've been a defense attorney approximately twenty-five years, just defending people charged with crimes.  In the early 90's when I first started out, I was actually defending murder cases, so I've been defending them since that time and I've seen a lot of things.

I've seen attorneys.  I've heard what people have said.  I've taken over cases for attorneys who didn't know what they were doing.  So, to me it is a very small community in criminal defense of attorneys who actually can do murder cases.  There are a lot of attorneys who are good at negotiating cases, taking care of small cases.  They know a lot of people, but when it comes to a murder case, you're basically fighting for your client's life.

Difficult Death Penalty and Life Without Parole Cases

Some of the murder cases are death penalty cases.  Some of them are LWOP — life without possibility of parole, and then some of them have life attached to them — fifteen to life, twenty-five to life or more.  So, people are looking at spending the rest of their life in prison in a lot of these cases and a lot of attorneys are afraid to handle those type of cases because they realize they don't have the skill set to be able to fight a case against the best prosecutors.  Because that's what the District Attorney's office does in Los Angeles — they put their best, most seasoned prosecutors on their murder cases.

Not only that, the homicide detectives are the ones who are investigating it, and those homicide detectives have experience.  They've been doing it a long time.  They're usually the elite law enforcement officers.  So, whatever attorney is going to defend a criminal defendant in Los Angeles who is charged with a murder or homicide case — whatever you want to call it — is going to have to be able to compete against the best.

In my view and in my opinion, there's a short list of attorneys who have actually competed against the best and had success. A lot of attorneys just don't want to do these cases.  I've seen attorneys take cases, do the prelim and then the client comes to me and I say, why isn't the other attorney continuing on.  They say, oh, they can't handle this case after the prelim, because they're afraid to do a trial in a murder case.  That's the problem.

Attorney Affordability

Another huge problem of why there's such a small pool of attorneys that are doing these murder cases, is money.  A lot of the clients do not have the money to afford to hire a criminal attorney who is going to have to dedicate two to four weeks of their life in order to properly defend you in a trial.  That's not to mention all of the preparation that goes into defending a murder case in Los Angeles county.

So, you can see and it makes sense that there is a limited amount of great criminal defense attorneys who are seasoned and handle these murder cases.  So, you have to sit down and talk to the attorney that you're thinking about hiring.  I bring you in and we talk about it and I will give you examples of murder cases that I have done in Los Angeles in the downtown courts and all Los Angeles County criminal courthouses and we can compare those cases against your particular case and we can see if there are similarities and see some of the strategies that can be utilized in order to get you the best result when it comes to your murder case, or your loved one's murder case.

High Bail

A lot of times it's not the criminal defendant in a murder case or homicide case who is looking for an attorney.  It's their family, because the murder bails went from a million to two million when you're charged with murder in LA county and if there's any special enhancements or other stuff going on that justifies the bail being jacked up — I've seen bails at three million, eight million, ten million.  I mean, they just put the bails up so high that the person cannot get out to help with their defense.  They have to help with their defense from inside, in custody.

So, you want to get an attorney who has done these cases, had success in Los Angeles county, knows the judge, knows the prosecutor, knows their tendencies, knows what the jury pool is likely to believe; what they're not able to believe.  Not only does an attorney have to be willing to try the case which is a necessity.

Even if the case isn't going to go to trial, the prosecutors need to know that that attorney on that murder case in Los Angeles is ready to try that case and win it, because if they're not concerned that the defense attorney can win the case, then there's no chance of them offering a deal that a person is going to want to take under the circumstances of their case.

The prosecutors have got to look at the defense attorney and say, alright well, listen.  There is a risk we could lose this case.  This is a good criminal defense attorney.  He knows what he's doing.  He's beat us before.  We know he is going to challenge us at every step of the way, so maybe it is better to offer a deal and not go through a two, three week trial where the defense attorney may be able to convince a jury on a lesser charge that we could just offer him in the beginning or get a not guilty verdict altogether.

Negotiation Skills with Prosecutor

Also, your defense attorney in addition to being able to try the case, has to be able to negotiate a murder case in Los Angeles, because if you don't know the value of a murder case — if you haven't done other murder cases to compare it too — if you haven't dealt with these prosecutors on murder-related charges or attempted murder-related charges, or serious charges, you're not really going to know the value of a particular case that you're defending, so how do you know what you're supposed to try to get your client if your client is likely to be found guilty of something.  Sometimes your client is likely to be found guilty of murder because of the circumstances.

You have got to know, is there a way to get this person something other than fifteen to life, or something more.  Is there a way to get a determinant sentence where we know exactly when that person is going to get out — get a sentence so they still have a life left when they get out?

These are things that a very select group of criminal defense attorneys in Los Angeles have the knowledge and ability to fight these cases the right way. Pick up the phone.  Make the call.  Set the appointment with me and we will do everything we can to help you.

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.