Full Review of All The Details of the Murder Case
For twenty-five years now, I've handled murder cases throughout Los Angeles County and the San Fernando Valley courthouses. This includes the courthouse of San Fernando, Van Nuys, Pasadena, Glendale, and Malibu, which has now been transferring all the cases to the LAX court. Law enforcement, prosecutors, and judges treat these cases very seriously.
They typically put the best police officers and detectives on investigating these cases, and they will spend unlimited funds to do so. Further, some special prosecutors are assigned murder cases, and they are usually more experienced than a regular prosecutors in the criminal courts in Los Angeles County. When I defend murder cases under California Penal Code 187, I take a kind of multi-prong approach. First, I want to know about my client, his life, and what led them to become involved in the situation. I get a complete background of the individual.
Sometimes I will use a psychologist or psychiatrist to author a report related to my client in whatever issues I feel are relevant either to help defend the case or to use the information in some way if there is any mental defense in the case. There are many mental reasons when it comes to a murder case. I've had success with insanity defenses. I've had a shield with people being intoxicated and not forming the intent necessary for a specific murder case.
Of course, voluntary intoxication is only relevant and viable as a defense in California if the reason can show that the defendant is charged with a specific intent crime that the voluntary intoxication inhibited or blocked the defendant from being able to form the clear intent to kill. For example, when it comes to murder or attempted murder. These defenses are a bit complicated and don't apply to every case and have to be evaluated and looked at on a case-by-case basis.
How Do Juries In Handle Murder Cases?
From my years of experience in defending and trying cases in front of juries, I would say that the Los Angeles courthouses have very conservative jurors. Many of them are retired, older, and have a very dim view of people who are committing violent felonies. That said, since the jury service has gone to a one-day service where most people are ordered to be involved in jury service, it's more challenging to escape jury service.
I think that has eased up the conservatism related to trying to defend these murder cases because a much larger pool has now become available to the defense when it comes to these murder charges. So, when it comes to a murder charge and a jury pool and how to handle the voir dire, which is the question and answer element of picking a jury where jurors are asked by the judge questions about their fairness and capability to serve.
Then the attorneys are allowed to ask questions during the voir dire in one of these murder cases, and this really – if done the right way – can give you a good feel for how conservative and how fair the jury is going to be when it comes to a murder case. Many jurors go into these murder cases already believing that the person is guilty simply because they're charged with a murder case and because the prosecutors have filed charges against them.
This is up to the defense attorney to clarify that just because somebody is charged with a murder case doesn't necessarily mean that they're guilty. One of the first steps I take is no. 1, identifying those jurors who will already be biased against my client just because they are charged with murder.
So, making it clear to them that our criminal justice system is one of the best and most fair in the world, and part of the reason is that a person is presumed innocent unless the prosecutors can prove otherwise. So, if they're asked to vote on whether the person is innocent or guilty at the beginning of a case, they would have to vote innocent because they haven't heard any of the evidence yet.
Further, the person is presumed innocent of the murder charge, and to think otherwise would violate the law, violate their duties as a juror, and would not be fair. They wouldn't want one of their family members or even themselves prosecuted and dealt with in an unfair manner where people are already assuming they're guilty before they hear any of the evidence in a murder case.
Ways People Can Be Charged With Murder in California
Well, believe it or not, there are many different angles and many fact patterns that can come up that can trigger a murder charge. For example, in today's society, as I write this post, anybody drinking or driving with alcohol in their system who kills another person will be charged with second-degree murder. That's the first thing the prosecutors do.
A lot of times, I've been able to get a not guilty verdict on the murder charge, and some lesser amount if the person was drinking and driving and killed somebody, or even convince the prosecutors to offer a resolution that does not include a murder conviction, but of course, have fifteen to life. So, this is one way you can be charged with murder.
It's happening more and more as the prosecutors realize that everybody in society should know that when you drink and drive, people can die, and that's why they're charging murder instead of some vehicular manslaughter charge. Another way you could be charged with murder is if you plan a murder.
This would be a first-degree murder charge. Even if you solicit a murder – meaning that you either hire someone or convince them to kill another person – that solicitation of a murder could be charged as murder as though you committed the murder yourself. The difference between first and second-degree murder is planning and deliberating, thinking about killing someone, and then putting the plan in motion versus someone who becomes angry during a sudden quarrel and kills someone.
Then the issue is going to be that more of voluntary manslaughter or some other charge versus a murder charge is going to boil down to whether the person under the circumstances had time to think about killing another person. The thought process can be quick even for second-degree murder as far as planning things and making a quick decision to kill another person. Still, the best criminal defense attorneys know how to defend these second-degree murder cases and know precisely what it takes to win these cases.
Retain an Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer
I would say most of the rest of the murder cases that are charged in California or at least over the last twenty-five years I've been practicing are fact-specific and have to do with domestic violence situations, people trying to commit other crimes like robbery or burglary, and death occurring.
Then the felony-murder rule triggering, so if someone dies during a robbery, for example – and it was foreseeable to the people who planned the robbery and were involved in it – then they can be charged with murder under the felony-murder rule even though that didn't necessarily intend to kill somebody.
So, there are several different theories and ways when you look at the totality of the circumstances of a case that someone can be charged with murder in California. If you or a loved one is accused of murder, you should get to an attorney that has handled these cases, knows the local Los Angeles and San Fernando Valley court system, and knows how to win the case or at least get a lesser charge.