Criminal charges involving the loss of another life are among the most serious charges one can face. Because charges like murder and manslaughter pose some of the most severe penalties, it becomes essential for the accused to work with experienced criminal lawyers who can help them craft defense strategies tailored to the unique facts and circumstances of their case.
While murder cases are not as common as other types of criminal charges, they can and do happen in various ways. Understanding the defense strategies available in these cases, which may be similar to the general strategies used in other criminal cases, is important to understanding how defense lawyers operate and work to disprove the government’s narrative against the accused.
Below are a few examples of different strategies that may be implemented in murder cases:
- Justifiable homicide – Not all murders amount to crimes, particularly when they can be justified. One of the most common legal justifications for the killing of another person is self-defense or the defense of others. These justifications are difficult to prove, and they require defendants to show that reasonable force was used in response to a reasonable fear or death or bodily harm, or a reasonable fear of death or bodily harm to another. Other justified homicides may include exercises of duty, such as when law enforcement and other public officers use reasonable force without unlawful intent.
- Reduced culpability – Murder charges are structured in a way that different charges have different levels of culpability. This means that the level of criminal liability will vary from charge to charge. For example, first-degree murder is considered the most serious criminal charge with the greatest level of criminal liability because it involves willful and premeditated murder. Second-degree murder, on the other hand, is an intentional murder that is not premeditated or planned. While all murders are culpable homicides, not all culpable homicides can be charged as murder. When pursuing reduced charges as part of a murder defense, attorneys may focus on elements such as intent. Manslaughter charges, for instance, involve recklessly or, in some cases, negligently causing the death of another, and they pose less severe penalties than murder charges.
- False confessions – Law enforcement is zealous about making arrests in murder cases. While this is warranted considered public risks, their zealousness can lead to inappropriate or coercive interrogation tactics, violations of procedure, and violations of civil rights. When a confession can be proven as false, coerced, or involuntary, it may be excluded from evidence.
- Unlawful searches and seizures – When law enforcement officers conduct unlawful searches that allow them to secure evidence used against a murder defendant, or detain or arrest a suspect, they violate procedure and civil rights. As such, evidence obtained through unlawful searches and seizures can be thrown out, which makes the prosecution’s task of proving guilt much more difficult.
- Mistaken identity – Statistics show that mistaken identification is the leading cause of wrongful convictions in our criminal justice system. Unfortunately, witness testimony is not always reliable. After all, witnesses may see one person when other witnesses see another. Time and other factors can also alter memories. For example, time may cause a witness to remember a green car as a blue car. Arguing mistaken identity rests on showing that identification is unreliable and that there is reasonable doubt as to the identity of the real offender.
As the most serious charge one case face, murder is not an easy crime to defend. However, it can be handled effectively by proven lawyers who take the time to conduct meticulous investigations and build strong case strategies that focus on all available defenses. That is precisely what our Addison criminal defense lawyers at Scott H. Palmer, P.C. do on behalf of clients in all cases, including those involving murder, manslaughter, and other serious violent crimes.