A criminal charge of murder represents the most serious offense prosecuted in the California judicial system. For example, a conviction for second-degree murder carries with it a prison sentence that lasts from 15 years to life. A conviction for first-degree murder carries a much harsher prison sentence that can include life in prison without parole.
California Penal Code 187 defines murder as causing the death of someone by using “malice intent.” Malice intent is a critical element of a crime that a prosecutor must prove to gain a conviction. A prosecutor also has to prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that a defendant “took a direct step” to kill someone. Taking a direct step means putting a plan into motion to commit a crime.
Proving a criminal case “beyond a reasonable doubt” is the highest legal hurdle a prosecutor must clear to convict a defendant of a crime. For a murder case, the “beyond a reasonable doubt” burden of proof allows skilled and persuasive criminal defense attorneys to plant a seed of doubt into the mind of at least one juror.
Remember that it takes just one juror to vote for acquittal during a criminal trial.
Let’s see how an experienced criminal defense lawyer can plant the seeds of doubt.
What is Self-Defense?
According to California law, you have the right to defend yourself by using physical force. The question is not do you have the right, but instead, did you use the level of physical force that was justified under the circumstances of the event that led to the murder of someone. A good example of using reasonable physical force is coming home one night to find a burglar in your home who pulls out a gun to cause you harm. Fighting back is considered a reasonable response under this circumstance.
What Mistaken Identity?
Several studies indicate the mistaken identity defense is one of the most common types of defenses used during a murder trial. Many factors can help a criminal defense attorney use the mistaken identity defense, including testimony from an intoxicated witness or the account given by a witness when the witness has less poor vision.
The key to successfully presenting the mistaken identity defense is to plant the seeds of doubt into the minds of the jury. If a juror is not 100 percent sure a witness account of an event is credible, then the prosecution has not proven guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Can Heat of Passion Be a Convincing Defense?
This type of criminal defense for murder is not enough on its own to exonerate a defendant of a murder charge. What the heat of passion defense can do is qualify the defendant to receive a lesser charge, such as manslaughter. The heat of passion defense tries to prove that a defendant was reasonably provoked to commit the crime of murder. A prime example of when to use the heat of passion defense is when a spouse discovers the other spouse in bed with someone else.
Should You Contact a California Criminal Defense Attorney?
A criminal charge of murder is too serious of an accusation to rely on the legal expertise of an inexperienced criminal defense lawyer. A highly skilled attorney conducts a thorough investigation of your case by collecting evidence and interviewing witnesses of the alleged crime. What your criminal defense lawyer wants to do is build a strong enough body of evidence that makes it difficult for the prosecutor to prove that you committed murder “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Find out how an experienced criminal defense attorney can help you fight back against a murder charge by calling the Chambers Law firm at 714-760-4088.