California Penal Code 187 PC Murder Defense Strategies

For the past twenty-five years, I've defended murder cases or homicide cases under Penal Code 187 PC in Los Angeles and San Fernando Valley. I've handled murder cases in just about every courtroom, and I know how a murder case is prosecuted and how to defend one of these cases.

Typically, when it's a murder case, the head prosecutor will assign somebody to all of the murder cases that are filed. That person will be responsible for resolving the case one way or another – whether the issue is determined by the method 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.

As far as a murder charge goes, you should know that the San Fernando jury pool is conservative, so you have to bear that in mind when you take your case to trial which 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.

Many retired people can serve on juries; although it's a one-day service for juries, you don't get picked. You don't have to help, but the jury pool is still known as one of the more conservative courthouses, especially for a murder allegation in the San Fernando area.

This jurisdiction is, in general, within a ten-mile radius of the courthouse. Any crime that occurs in that radius will typically be prosecuted in the local court, and if it's a murder case, the DA's office will handle it. They'll usually try it in the jurisdiction where it occurred unless it has some unique element to it, in which case instead of it being tested in the San Fernando court, the murder case will be tried in downtown Los Angeles at 210 West Temple Street, the central hub courthouse for the District Attorney's office.

Defense of Murder Charges – Penal Code 187

As far as how a murder case is defended, that will depend on the facts 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?

California Penal Code 187 PC - Murder

Are they using expert testimony, or will they use eyewitnesses and ballistics? There are 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 they will use their top homicide detectives to deal with any murder case that's filed.

So, 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 investigator if the analysis is one of the components of properly defending a murder case. Also, their prosecutors that try the murder cases are usually the ones that are in the office for a good period 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 do a thorough investigation and treat it as kind of the only case you have, in the sense that you're 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 defending a murder case in the San Fernando courthouse.

Reviewing Murder Case to Determine Best Defense Strategy

What we do is, if you're a family member hiring a criminal defense attorney for your loved one who has a murder case pending, we'll have you come in and go over everything with you -of course, with the client's permission. So, you're in the loop as far as what's going on with the murder case. Then obviously, I will go out and talk to the client with all the discovery and paperwork. Whatever evidence there is in hand and go over everything with him, they also feel for what the allegations are against them and what evidence the prosecutors will use to prove the murder case.

Then, we'll come up with our game plan as to exactly what our defense strategy will 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 depends on the circumstances of the case.

The prosecutor's evidence 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 protect a murder case. In the murder cases that I've done over many years, there's always some different fact pattern going on, and we have to use the facts that are given to us and try to create some facts of our own.

A lot of times, the prosecutors and the police 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 provide solid security and challenge some of the District Attorney's evidence and see if we can get that not guilty verdict if that's what the client is looking for.

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The decision as to whether we go to trial in a murder case or whether we try to resolve it is made between the lawyer and the client. The client has the last say because if a deal is worked out for the client in a murder case, it's usually going to be something significant, so the client has to decide whether they're going to accept blame for whatever happened and if a client goes to trial in murder care in San Fernando. 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.