Defense Strategies for a Murder Charge

nicolas-barbier-garreau-256433-copy-300x240A man from McHenry was given a 40-year prison sentence for murder.

33-year-old Anthony Harrison tried to take his own life. Unsuccessful, he called 911 and reported that he killed his wife. Two days prior to the call, Laura Harrison was murdered at their home. Upon arriving at the scene, police found her body. She had been beaten, stabbed, and strangled.

Police later discovered that the husband, a few hours after the crime, bought several items to destroy or conceal evidence of the murder. Harrison also had the intention of burning down his house with his wife’s body inside.

If you or someone you know is facing murder charges, it is best to contact a criminal defense lawyer in Chicago who can assist you with your case.

Punishment for First Degree Murder

In Illinois, laws that govern first degree murder treat the offense very seriously. For the crime to be proven, prosecutors must demonstrate, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant killed someone without any justification under the law. Also, the defendant:

  • Knew the act would very possibly cause death or significant bodily harm or
  • Committed or attempted to commit a forcible felony such as rape

The severity of the penalty is dependent on circumstances related to the crime and the identity of the victim. Often in a case of this nature, a court will request a sentencing hearing that is separate so it can contemplate any mitigating and aggravating factors. This will help the court decide what penalties are appropriate as they relate to the crime’s circumstances.

Because first degree murder is the most serious homicide crime in the state, evidence on mitigating and aggravating elements are considered. Whether the defendant was intoxicated and his/her mental status are mitigating factors. The age of the victim, whether torture was involved, and whether the defendant is a correctional or law enforcement official are aggravating factors.

Now that Illinois no longer enforces the death penalty, life in prison is the maximum punishment for first degree murder.

Potential Defenses for First Degree Murder

The defense against charges of first degree murder primarily fall into two classifications. The defendant claims he/she did not commit the crime or the defendant admits to killing someone, but not to committing first degree murder. If the latter, the defendant may claim that he/she was justified or incapacitated mentally in some way that disqualifies them for legally being liable. However, the defendant must provide substantial proof to support these claims.

Defenses for first degree murder include:

  • Insanity
  • Mistaken identity (the wrong person is charged)
  • Lack of intent
  • Intoxication
  • Lack of knowledge
  • Self-defense

It is worth mentioning that if none of the points above are met for first degree murder, the defendant still may be found guilty, but of a lesser murder charge.

Another method for defense is arguing that the prosecution has not proven all of the necessary elements required for a charge of first degree murder, meaning that the prosecution must establish that the defendant killed the victim deliberately, willfully, and premeditated the act before committing the crime.

Hire a Criminal Defense Lawyer in Chicago Today

If you are under investigation or have been accused or arrested for a crime, you need to contact an experienced lawyer in the Chicagoland area who can help. David Freidberg will use his years of experience to evaluate your case to apprise you of your options and legal rights. By combining negotiation and trial skills, his law office will support you during every step of the legal process to obtain a result that is best for you.

Schedule a free consultation or call (312) 560-7100 to speak about your case.

(image courtesy of nicolas-barbier-garreau)