Articles Tagged with Chicago murder lawyer

brandon-mowinkel-211936-unsplash-copy-300x200One of the most carefully watched criminal trials in recent memory hit a snag when defense attorneys claimed that the prosecution withheld evidence in the Tyshawn Lee murder trial. Two men are charged with murdering the 9-year-old boy in a gang-related killing. The two are accused of targeting the boy because they believed his father had been involved in an attack targeting one of the defendant’s family members.

What Did the Prosecution do?

Essentially, the prosecution failed to provide evidence that police had stopped two young men that fled the scene of a music video being shot. The gun that killed Tyshawn Lee was later recovered from that incident. During the trial, police suddenly remembered that they had made this stop and informed prosecutors. Prosecutors handed this information over to the defense while the trial was underway, and the defense was rightfully upset to be learning about it well into the trial.

tertia-van-rensburg-37121-copy-300x224The trial of Brendt Christiansen, the man accused of murdering Chinese exchange student Yingying Zhang, has begun. Amid claims that there is surveillance evidence showing Christiansen admitting Zhang into his car the night she was murdered, the prosecution will introduce evidence gathered by his longtime girlfriend, who wore a wire for federal investigators, against Christiansen at trial. She will claim that Christiansen repeatedly indicated to her that he wanted to be a serial killer and made other inflammatory proclamations.

Defense attorneys, however, are questioning her sanity and her competency to bear witness against her former boyfriend. They are attempting to subpoena psychiatric evaluations of the former girlfriend citing that it is relevant to the quality of her testimony. Additionally, the witness, referred to only as T.B., will provide evidence that she introduced him to the “BDSM lifestyle” which vaguely translates into fetishists who enjoy bondage and domination. 

“Damaged and Unstable”

A Palatine man was acquitted of first-degree murder charges in early June following a jury trial. The defendant sent a fellow bar patron to the hospital following a single punch to the head; the victim died 10 days later. The defendant claimed he threw the punch in self-defense during a bar brawl.8353384634_a3d504eed6

Self-defense and First Degree Murder

The defense in this case was a two-pronged approach that involved self-defense and lack of specific intent.

First-degree murder

First-degree murder is a specific intent crime, which means that the defendant must have:

  • Intended to kill or cause great bodily harm to the victim;
  • Knew that his actions could result in death or great bodily harm, or;
  • Committed a forcible felony.

 

In this case, the victim died 10 days after being punched in the side of the head by the defendant. A forensic expert testified that the majority of the brain damage suffered by the victim was a result of the blow to the head, and not the subsequent fall to the ground. Jury verdict aside, it is difficult to see how the prosecution could successfully argue that the defendant had the specific intent required for a first-degree murder charge.

The punch occurred during the middle of a bar fight, where many participants were throwing punches and putting hands on each other. There was no indication that anybody was intent on causing deadly harm – it was just an ordinary bar fight, and the defendant jumped into the fray. His intent was to hit the victim, not to kill him or cause great bodily harm.

Nor does it seem plausible at all for the defendant to have known that his punch to the side of the victim’s head could result in death or great bodily harm. Unless the defendant was a prizefighter – and even prizefighters take heavy blows to the head on a routine basis and do not die as a result – nobody would believe that a bare-knuckled punch to the head would result in anything worse than a mild concussion. No laughing matter, but certainly not great bodily harm.

Without the victim’s subsequent death, the defendant committed battery – not aggravated battery – so the crime does not meet the criteria for first-degree murder under the forcible felony rule.

Self-defense

Under Illinois law self-defense is an affirmative defense for the use of force. The use of force must have been based on a reasonable belief that the action was “necessary to defend himself or another against such other’s imminent use of unlawful force.” The use of deadly force, or force likely to cause death or great bodily harm, is justified only to defend against similar use of force.

In this case, regardless of whether the defendant has a reasonable belief that the victim was about to assault either the defendant or his friend (which was the defendant’s justification for his use of force), the same argument against a conviction for first-degree murder applies here. There is no way the defendant could have known that a punch to the side of the head was going to result in the victim’s death. That the punch did cause the victim’s death was a freak accident.

The prosecution in this case gambled with an all-or-nothing approach and lost. Instead of allowing the jury to convict the defendant on lesser charges – manslaughter or felony battery, for instance – the only option offered was first-degree murder. Once the jury decided that the defendant did not have the requisite intent to convict on a first-degree murder charge, they had no choice but to acquit.

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