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What are the most common defenses for a murder charge?

On Behalf of | Aug 9, 2021 | Criminal Defense |

In Oklahoma and throughout the country, murder is perhaps the most serious criminal charge you can face. Sometimes, depending on the circumstances of the case, the right defense can reduce the charge. It’s important to know what defenses can be used against such a serious charge.

What are common defenses for first-degree murder?

Although many murder cases are often complex, the defense attorney can use certain strategies. The law allows for an argument to be made against a first-degree murder charge, just as there are valid defenses for other crimes. The most common of these include:

• Mistaken identity. Mistaken identity is a common defense that can be used in a murder case. The prosecution is required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the individual who committed the murder was the defendant. The defense can argue that it wasn’t the defendant who committed the crime but someone else. Often, especially with DNA evidence available, it’s possible to challenge witness accounts.

• Failure to prove the elements. If the prosecutor is unable to prove the elements of the case, the criminal defense team can argue there is a failure to prove the elements. This defense is plausible when any of the elements of the case are missing. The elements include the killing of another person, an intent to kill that person, deliberation, and premeditation. If any of those elements is missing, an individual can’t be convicted of first-degree murder.

• Accidental killing. Not all killings qualify as murder or even first-degree murder. If the death was accidental, the defense can argue that. Many such cases can result in the charges being reduced to second-degree murder or even manslaughter.

• Justification. If the defense has evidence to prove that the killing was justified, the defendant cannot be convicted of first-degree murder.

What is justified homicide?

There is a type of killing known as a justified homicide. This is a criminal defense strategy that can be used when an individual acted in self-defense. For example, if another person caused the defendant great fear of imminent death or bodily harm, and he or she reacts and kills the person, it’s considered justified and self-defense. For example, if a woman was grabbed by a man off the street wielding a knife, and the man tells her he is going to rape her, if she somehow managed to get the knife away from him and stabbed him, she would be justified if he died.