I’ve been defending murder cases or homicide cases pursuant to Penal Code Section 187 in the San Fernando courthouse for the past twenty-five years. I’ve handled murder cases in just about every courtroom in the San Fernando courthouse, and obviously, I know how a murder case is prosecuted in San Fernando and how to defend one of these cases. Typically, when it’s a murder case in any court in LA county, including San Fernando, the head prosecutor will assign somebody to all of the murder cases that are filed and that person will be responsible for resolving the case one way or another – whether the case is resolved by way of a resolution in a negotiated plea bargain, or whether the case goes to trial and the jury decides whether the person is innocent or guilty of the murder charge in San Fernando.
As far as a murder charge goes, you should know that the San Fernando jury pool is a conservative jury pool, so you have to bear that in mind when you take your case to trial who the jurors are going to be – older, retired people – not all, but that’s the general jurors in the San Fernando court who are being drawn from Canyon County, Valencia, Saugus area. A lot of retired people are available to serve on juries although it’s a one-day service for juries you don’t get picked, then you don’t have to serve, but still the San Fernando courthouse has a huge jury pool and it is known as one of the more conservative courthouses, especially for a murder allegation in the San Fernando area.
This jurisdiction for San Fernando murder cases is basically in general within a ten-mile radius of the courthouse. Any crime that occurs in that radius is typically going to be prosecuted in the San Fernando courthouse, and if it’s a murder case, the DA’s office will handle it and they’ll usually try it in the jurisdiction where it occurred, unless it has some special element to it, in which case instead of it being tried in the San Fernando court, the murder case will be tried in downtown Los Angeles at 210 West Temple Street, the main hub courthouse for the District Attorney’s office.
As far as how a murder case is defended in the San Fernando courthouse, that’s really going to depend on what the facts are of the case. In other words, is it a shooting? Is it a stabbing? What are the circumstances surrounding it? What evidence are the prosecutors going to use to prove the murder charge in San Fernando? Are they going to use expert testimony or are they going to use eye witnesses, ballistics? There’re all sorts of different ways that the prosecutors can prove a murder case depending on how it happened and what evidence is available to them. You should also know that in San Fernando they’re going to use their top homicide detectives to deal with any murder case that’s filed in the San Fernando jurisdiction. So, obviously, they will typically get a head start on the investigation. So, as a defense team, we’re going to want to come in with our own investigator if investigation is one of the components of properly defending a murder case in San Fernando.
Also, their prosecutors that try the murder cases are usually the ones that are in the office for a good period of time and have a little bit more experience, than a standard prosecutor who has only been there one or two years. In my experience, one advantage that the defense has in homicide cases – besides being able to just zero in on the case and really do a thorough investigation and treat it as kind of the only case you have, in the sense that you’re really going to pull out all of the stops that the prosecutors don’t always do. But there’s also the advantage most of the time, even if the District Attorney is a little more seasoned, they’re usually nowhere as seasoned as somebody like me who has been doing it for twenty-five years. So, that will usually give us an advantage as far as being able to out-strategize the prosecutor when it comes to the defense of a murder case in the San Fernando courthouse.
What we do is, if you’re a family member hiring an attorney for your loved one who has a murder case pending in San Fernando, we’ll have you come in and go over everything with you -of course, with the permission of the client. So, you’re in the loop as far as what’s going on with the murder case, and then obviously I will go out and talk to the client with all the discovery and paperwork and whatever evidence there is in hand and go over everything with him so they also have a feel for what the allegations are against them, what evidence the prosecutors are going to try to use to prove the murder case in the San Fernando court and then we’ll come up with our game plan as to exactly what our defense strategy is going to be. Is it going to be a damage control strategy where we’re trying to mitigate things and work out a plea bargain? Or, is it going to be a situation where the person is innocent and we’re going to defend the case and try to get a not guilty verdict or some lesser included charge. Again, it really depends on the circumstances of the case. What evidence the San Fernando prosecutor has in determining how exactly a murder case will be defended. It’s not a cookie-cutter thing where you do the same thing every time to defend a murder case.
In the murder cases that I’ve done over the course of many years, there’s always some different fact pattern going on and we really have to use the facts that are given to us and also try to create some facts of our own, and a lot of times the prosecutors and the police really kind of do a one-sided investigation of the case and they don’t look at the other sides – the different witnesses that might be available – so that’s what we have to do as the defense – it’s turn over every stone so that we can really provide a solid defense and challenge some of the San Fernando District Attorney’s evidence and see if we can get that not guilty verdict if that’s what the client is looking for.
The decision as to whether we go to trial in a San Fernando murder case, or whether we try to resolve it is made between the lawyer and the client. The client obviously has the last say because if a deal is worked out for the client in a murder case, it’s obviously usually going to be something significant, so the client has to decide whether they’re going to accept culpability for whatever happened, and if a client goes to trial in a murder care in San Fernando and they lose, obviously the consequences will be grave So, from my perspective, I always let the client make the final decision and usually – but not always – the decision is made based upon the evidence and based upon how the client feels about the case and whether they believe they should have to accept responsibility for the murder or not.
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