Defending a homicide charge – Having to deal with a criminal charge can be one of the scariest and most stressful things someone can deal with. Arguably, the worse of these charges would be a first-degree murder charge, but all homicide charges carry serious consequences.  A homicide charge is stressful not only for the accused, but his or her loved ones as well.

Anyone who is charged with a crime has the legal right to defend themselves, but a murder charge would not be a smart situation in which to exercise that right. Something that serious should be left to professionals. It is detailed, it is complicated, and it requires a lot a legal knowledge. In this blog, we will discuss how a criminal defense attorney would likely defend a homicide case. Like all our blogs, this is for informational purposes only, and not intended as a substitute for the advice and counsel of a criminal defense attorney.

Discovery in a Homicide Case

Criminal defendants are entitled to view all the evidence that the government has in their possession that they intend to use to prove that defendant guilty. This is called discovery, and in a homicide case this is typically a lot of information.  There are hundreds of pages of statements, reports, and lab results.  There is also information by way of videos, audio recordings, 911 calls, body cam footage, cellular phone data, and many other things.

When viewing a discovery in a homicide case, the attorney is assessing the strength of the government’s case, evaluating the presence of any affirmative defenses, and determining the theory of not only the government’s case, but the defense’s case as well.  In a homicide case a criminal defense attorney is not going to solely depend on the discovery for information, they will also investigate the case themselves, usually with the help of a private investigator.

Plea Negotiations in a Homicide case

Most criminal charges that are not dismissed end with the defendant agreeing to some sort of plea bargain.  Homicide charges are no different in this regard.  In North Carolina, conviction of first-degree murder requires either the death penalty or a punishment of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

In homicide cases, it might be possible through a plea negotiation to plead guilty to a lower-level homicide, or some other crime all together. The advantage to this would be that the defendant would then get to follow the sentencing guidelines for that other charge, rather than face a mandatory life sentence.

Factors that may be relevant in a plea negotiation for a homicide include but are not limited to the following:

  • The mental health of the defendant
  • The circumstances of the crime
  • The strength of the government’s case
  • The strength of the defense’s case
  • The characteristics and the history of the defendant

It is up to the criminal defense attorney in your case to work through these factors and others with the prosecutor to come to a fair plea offer.

Homicide trials

If no dismissal occurs and you cannot reach a plea offer that you are comfortable taking, your only choice may be to try you case.  A homicide trial works like any other criminal trial, the stakes just tend to be higher.  Testimony and other evidence is presented in the same way as other charges, jury selection works the same way as other charges as well.

What is important in a homicide case it so to everything necessary to show the jury that the state did not meet their burden of proof. There are several strategies to achieve this that depend on the facts and circumstances of each case.

Criminal charges can cause stress and upheaval to the entire family. If you or a loved one have been charged with a crime in North Carolina or South Carolina and are seeking representation, contact us.

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