Handling a Murder Case "A Murder Lawyer's Perspective"

Posted By Bill Nimmo & Raymond Gomez, Attorneys at Law || 1-Apr-2014

When you are charged with murder in San Diego, you have been charged with one of the most severe crimes in the system. Not only are the punishments of the highest level but the resources used by both the police and the prosecutors are much greater than other types of crimes. Just how many resources are put into the government investigation and the prosecution depends upon how serious they consider the situation.

If a young child is abducted from her house and killed, you can bet that all the resources available will be put into that case. The defendant should expect no sympathy or mercy. If a fight results from two drunk men arguing in a bar, much less investigation and resources will be put into the case. Still, when any human being is killed, there is always loved ones who will push for the greatest punishment possible.

Under Investigation for Murder in San Diego? What to Do

If a person is arrested for murder they should make no statement to anyone but their lawyer. Any statement to the police will not help the defendant and statements to friends and family are not privileged. More people have been convicted on the basis of their statements to the police than by any other means. Many times the evidence won't even put the defendant at the scene until the defendant speaks and admits being there or lies about where they actually were at the time of the killing.

A qualified murder lawyer in Vista should be hired immediately if the defendant and his family can afford to hire counsel. A personally retained lawyer to handle a murder defense will begin the analysis and investigation of the situation immediately. In many cases it is vital to get the investigation moving before the trail of evidence grows cold. Also, if there are mental state issues, observing the defendant close in time to the event can help provide evidence for use later in the case.

Being lead counsel in a murder defense in San Diego is a task for a lawyer experienced in handling homicide cases. You don't want someone cutting their legal teeth on your case. A good murder defense lawyer will have taken several murder cases to trial in California courtrooms. The types of issues involved in analyzing, investigating, preparing, and settling or trying a murder case are complex.

Third Party Liability in Homicide Investigations

If someone else committed the killing, the lawyer needs to start developing the third party liability evidence immediately. Most people are killed by someone they know who has a motive. Determining potential suspects is one of the first steps. Also, a priority task is to look at all of the evidence gathered by the crime scene investigators. If the defendant didn't do the killing then something about the crime scene and what was found or not found may provide clues to who did the killing. The crime scene investigators are far from perfect and a good lawyer can spot areas where evidence was not gathered, or the evidence gathered can be interpreted positively for the defendant.

Eyewitness Testimony

Many times these cases are based in part on eyewitness testimony or eyewitness identification. Your lawyer needs to understand how fragile eyewitness testimony really is. A good analysis of the circumstances, along with an expert who specializes in the psychological factors involved in eyewitness testimony, can cast doubt on the accuracy of eyewitnesses.

Forensic Evidence

A solid understanding of forensic evidence is also important in defending a murder case. A lawyer should have experience in blood analysis, semen and bodily fluid evidence, DNA, hair comparison, fiber analysis, firearm identification, ballistics, firearm use and characteristics, pathology of body marks and wound analysis, toxicology, fingerprints, footprints, handwriting, and crime scene reconstruction.

Murder vs. Manslaughter

If the defendant was involved in the event, but either didn't kill the victim or didn't do so with malice, then a whole other set of skills is required. It is the job of the lawyer to carefully review the known evidence and talk with the defendant to figure out why the case is not murder but manslaughter or less. The case could be a murder, but not premeditated; the case could be a manslaughter involving the heat of passion; the case could be an accidental killing; or the case could be entirely justifiable if the killing was in self-defense.

This analysis requires not only a solid understanding of the forensic areas listed above, but also requires the lawyer to have great skills in crime scene reconstruction. If the killing happened in self-defense, or in the heat of passion, a careful reconstruction of the event may be able to prove that theory.

The lawyer must be very experienced in mental state issues. Many times the psychological condition of the victim and/or the defendant provides key evidence to why the case should be mitigated from murder. Mental state defenses are critical in a high percentage of homicide cases. They are very complex and even recognizing their existence requires an intimate knowledge of the field of psychology and the high-caliber experts available in the field.

If you intend to hire a privately retained lawyer to handle a murder case, especially through trial, expect to expend substantial resources. Less than a major effort may not get the job done.