Accidental Death, Justifiable Homicide, And Mitigating Circumstances As Murder Or Manslaughter Defenses

9 December 2015
 Categories: Law, Blog

If you killed someone accidently or for good reason, you could face murder or manslaughter charges. To defend yourself successfully, you will want to hire a criminal defense lawyer promptly.  You will want to prove that your intent was not malicious and that there were mitigating circumstances for your actions.

Anticipating the Possibility of Being Unfairly Charged or Over-charged  in a Homicide

A homicide refers to the death of a human resulting from the actions of another human, but it doesn't necessarily mean a crime was involved and could be considered a justifiable act. For instance, soldiers who kill soldiers on the opposite side of a conflict are committing homicide although they aren't breaking the law. An example of a "justifiable" homicide that you could face under more ordinary circumstances is if you killed an intruder in a home invasion.

Sometimes prosecutors unfairly charge a person for murder or manslaughter as a response to a homicide, or they could over-charge you with a severe charge that doesn't strictly fit the intent of the law or your behavior. One reason may be politics, another may standard policy be to motivate you to take a plea bargain. They could use several charges and see which ones the jury will convict you on and the rationale behind this is that jury members may feel the evidence doesn't support the more severe charges, but they could possibly feel pressured into convicting you for a lesser charge. Conversely, a prosecutor could also charge you with a lesser crime than they think fits the situation if they have doubts about obtaining a conviction.

Disputing Evidence and An Inferred Motive For Murder 

If you lacked the motive to do harm, then this would be a weakness in the prosecution's case and could be emphasized by your attorney. For example, perhaps a friend was helping you with a home repair project and ended up being electrocuted by faulty wiring.

The prosecution may try to prove that you pre-planned the "accident" and charge you with premeditated murder. If you can show that there is no plausible motive, present evidence that you cared about the person, plus show the evidence is weak, it is unlikely that a jury would want to convict you.

Disputing Negligence and Intent For Manslaughter

In the home electrocution example, the prosecution could claim you should have known the risks and were negligent in preventing the accident and charge you with voluntary or involuntary manslaughter. A defense would hinge on whether it is reasonable to believe you should have aware of the risks or not, and/or what your state of mind was at the time.

If you had no intent to do harm, voluntary manslaughter would be an example of a charge that doesn't fit the circumstances, and if it could be shown from the series of events that you had no way of knowing that electrocution could occur, involuntary manslaughter could be shown to be an example of an unjust charge.

Using Other Mitigating Factors

Other mitigating factors for murder and manslaughter include self-defense, mental illness, or a natural provocation of some sort that the jury would understand. Your state of mind or intent would be very important in these defenses. They may provide an adequate defense that could result in acquittal. The jury may even be motivated due to the circumstances to nullify their verdict in your behalf.

Mitigating factors also provide partial defenses that could result in reduced charges with the likelihood of a reduced sentence or penalties being offered as a plea bargain which would mean lowered charges and reduced punishment or penalties.

To sum up, you will need to contact an attorney (such as Michael B. McCord) to prepare a defense that highlights any mitigating circumstances, shows that the incident was unintentional/accidental or the homicide was justifiable. This may prove to be a lot of work for you and your attorney, but you should leave nothing to chance -- your freedom depends on it.