The Experience You Need When Facing Murder And Manslaughter Charges
Charges related to taking or attempting to take another human life are among the most serious charges anyone can face. These cases tend to be highly complex, and the attorney you hire needs to be experienced, knowledgeable and strong in the courtroom. Our founding attorney, James McGee, is a former prosecutor with a strong track record of success defending clients against charges that include:
- First-degree murder: Murder that is both intentional and premeditated (Penal Code section 187(a))
- Second-degree murder: Homicide with the intent to kill but without premeditation (PC section 187(a))
- Felony murder: Killing someone, even accidentally, while committing certain felonies. It can be first-degree or second-degree, depending on the felony (PC section 189)
- Voluntary manslaughter: A homicide resulting from an unlawful act that has the natural consequence of causing the death of another person, and the perpetrator knew of the risk and disregarded that risk (PC section 192(a))
- Involuntary manslaughter: Homicide resulting from an unlawful act that creates a high risk of death or injury to another, and a reasonable person would have known that acting in that way would create such a risk (PC section 192(b))
- Vehicular manslaughter: A death that results from an unlawful act of a perpetrator while that person is driving a vehicle (PC section 192(c))
- Attempted murder: The failed or aborted attempt to murder another person (PC section 664/187)
With every homicide charge, there are numerous defenses that can be employed to defend against or reduce the charges brought against a defendant. An experienced attorney should be able to utilize every aspect of the law to help you with these serious charges.
Understanding How Homicides are Analyzed
When an attorney takes a homicide case to trial, the attorney needs to be able to convey how a jury analyzes the event using the criminal jury instructions that the court will likely read to the jury.
Often, jurors have a hard time learning the law and applying the law under the analysis demanded by the instructions. It is easier for the jury to simply look to facts to see if the government has proven a few key elements: (1) was someone killed, and (2) did the accused act with the intent to kill. After finding these two elements, the jury decided that the accused is guilty of Murder, and the case is decided. Unfortunately, this approach does not comport with the law as found in the jury instructions.
To help a jury properly consider the law and facts properly, we have created this flowchart to show to juries during the closing argument phase of the trial.
How the flowchart works is that you start at the green question – Was the homicide legal? The blue number below the question “500” identifying for the jury which California Criminal Jury Instruction (CALCRIM) addressing that question. The adjacent blue box has the various legal justifications that make a homicide legal (CALCRIM 505, 506, 507, etc).
The jury works through the flowchart based on the answers to the questions presented. Once the jury reaches the red termination oval, that is the verdict the jury should return.