Details are beginning to emerge about the suspect in the recent Weathertech shooting. According to reports, 37-year-old Charles McKnight is accused of shooting and killing another 37-year-old man and wounding two others. McKnight was found in possession of some of the victim’s belongings. Two Weathertech employees confronted McKnight near the end of his shift after they accused him of stealing the personal belongings of another employee at gunpoint. An argument ensued and McKnight shot at the men confronting him.
McKnight worked for a temp agency and managed to pass a background check although the press was able to discover that McKnight had been arrested several times for minor offenses. McKnight was never prosecuted on any of those charges which ended up being dropped. All the offenses were minor offenses such as simple battery and disorderly conduct. According to the temp agency, they use another company to conduct criminal background checks and McKnight’s came back clear.
One of the victims was treated and released from the hospital while the other is in critical condition. McKnight will likely face one charge of first-degree murder and potentially two charges of attempted murder. His bond has been set at $5 million.
What is Second-Degree Murder?
Under Illinois law, first-degree murder is the unlawful killing of another individual. While on TV you are likely used to seeing first-degree murder associated with premeditated murder, that is an imprecise definition of how the statute works in Illinois. Instead, a defendant is expected to prove that a special exclusion applies to their case. This is a high burden to place on a defendant. Note that the burden of proof shifts from the prosecutor to the defendant to prove that the exclusion applies.
What are the exclusions? Essentially, you must be able to establish that you were either provoked by the victim or that you believed at the time that the killing was justified but the justification was unreasonable.
While the murder may not have been premeditated, it remains unlikely that the defendant will be able to use any of the exclusions to second-degree murder to avoid a first-degree murder charge in this case. The penalty for second-degree murder is a maximum of 20 years. The penalty for first-degree murder is a minimum of 20 years. Since the shooting was related to a robbery, the defendant can also be charged with theft. Since the theft occurred at gunpoint, the penalties for the robbery are quite severe.
Nonetheless, it is clear that something went wrong here. The man had no history of serious violence and suddenly, one day decides to rob his coworkers and shoot them. So, if the defendant can establish a mental health defense, a second-degree murder may be possible.
Talk to a Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney Today
David Freidberg represents the interests of Chicago residents accused of serious crimes. Call today at (312) 560-7100 to set up an appointment and we can begin preparing your defense immediately.