First degree murder charges are incredibly serious, as it is one of the most dangerous crimes there is. If you plan your defense wrong you may even end up with a life sentence. But still, there is no reason to panic if you get yourself a good legal advice. There are generally two defense strategies with that charge: defendant admits that he had committed murder, or defendant denies that accusation. A defendant who has admitted to committing murder can assert that it was committed in self-defense or that they were not liable, for example by being incapacitated. It is a good way to get clear of that charge; that is if the defendant has sufficient proof to present to the court. About limitations of self-defense in Texas, you can read here.
Another argument that defendant can use is that prosecution hasn’t proved that defendant killed deliberately, willfully, etc. Also, that argument, while may be supported by further proof by the defendant, does not require that proof, since it is the prosecution that should provide evidence about crime details. As it stands, legal defenses can vary by state, and by facts present in the current case. So it is highly recommended that defendants should consult their attorney that is versed in the state’s laws. Following are defense avenues that defendant can use if they are Accused of Murder.
Mistaken identity defense
One of the most used arguments that defendants use in the first degree murder cases is that prosecutors charged the wrong person or that of mistaken identity. The defendant usually tries to support that assertion by presenting an alibi, evidence that they were somewhere else and therefore could not commit the crime they are accused of. Another avenue that defense may pursue is that of a challenging of the evidence that asserts that defendant was at the crime scene, such as witness testimony and even forensics results.
Justifying a homicide
Of course, not every homicide is a first degree murder. One of the most common legal justifications for a homicide is that of self-defense or the defense of others.
Murder for self-defense
If the defense decides to follow that avenue, then it must show to the court that the killing was a result of a perceived threat that was sufficient to inflict in the defendant a fear of bodily harm or even death. As such, the defendant cannot be an instigator of violence and should have used force that was proportional to the perceived threat. Besides that, defendant’s first response, by some states’ requirement should be an attempt to leave the danger, and only if that failed should they resort to violence.
Simple example: if the defendant is attacked and manages to incapacitate the attacker using non-lethal methods, for example, a stun gun, then their next action should be to flee the danger and not killing the attacker. That requirement differs if a person is attacked in their house, depending on a state.
Killing while defending others
Sometimes the only way to protect another person will be to commit a killing. Defense of others usually meets the same requirements as self-defense: timely use of force attempts to leave a dangerous situation, not initiating violence and facing the reasonably perceived threat.
Exercise of duty
In a line of law enforcement, there are times when usage of lethal force is justified. As such, killings that were committed in certain circumstances are not classified as first degree murders or even usual murders. As long as such an act was not committed with a negligence, unlawful intent and recklessness and in the exercise of duty, then it qualifies as justified homicide.
Murder as an accident
Accidental killings, depending on the circumstances and state laws, do not usually constitute murder. Some of those accidents may lead to being charged with manslaughter but it will still not constitute as first degree murder unless that accident takes place during the criminal activity committed by the defendant.
In the most states insanity, defense in case of first degree murder accusation is recognized as valid one. That defense usually requires psychological tests of the defendant, as they should not be able to recognize the wrongness of their action to be marked as insane.
If you are arrested for murder, you should contact a criminal defense attorney familiar with state laws to discuss your case and work out possible defense avenues against a first degree murder charge.