Murder is criminal act that involves the killing of one individual “with malice aforethought”. The exact definition of this crime will vary depending on the jurisdiction, but the consequences of conviction for murder are severe. There is a distinction between murder, a premeditated crime, and manslaughter, which does not involve malice aforethought. Manslaughter is a less serious offense that may be voluntary or involuntary. Voluntary means that the killing is committed in a “heat of passion” where someone is provoked and acts in response to strong emotions. Involuntary manslaughter involves carelessness and not purposeful killing. Driving under the influence of alcohol, and then causing a fatal motor vehicle accident is an example of involuntary manslaughter.
In any murder case, the stakes are high. If convicted, you could face life in prison or even the death penalty. Therefore, the defense attorney you hire should have experience with murder defense cases and be highly skilled in investigation and discovery, as well as forensic evidence.
Some murder cases are “whodunits,” where an arrest was made based on witness reports. If this is the case, a qualified murder defense attorney may be able to present a convincing alibi defense, proving that the defendant was somewhere else at the time of the murder. This tactic can be effective with the use of alibi witnesses or forensic evidence that convinces the jury you were not at the murder scene. Another defense tactic is to attack the photo selection or lineup identification of the alleged perpetrator. If this can be proven, your attorney has a better chance of proving ‘reasonable doubt’ that the defendant was at the scene of the crime when the murder was committed.
Self Defense Argument
Murder cases may also be based on the theory of self defense. Your attorney may be able to create reasonable doubt among jurors if it is not clear whether the alleged killer was acting maliciously or in self-defense. These defenses work best if the suspect does not have a violent past or if the victim was proven to be violent in nature.
Although it may be clear that the defendant committed the crime, you may be able to claim that he or she did not know the difference between right and wrong. In this case, the “insanity” defense may be used to cite an impaired state of mind that led to the victim’s death. The insanity can be defined as a variety of mental states, such as:
- Extreme stress
- Mental disorders
- Emotional impairment that prevents someone from premeditating a crime, resulting in the lesser manslaughter charge
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