Arguably the most serious accusation you can face in California, a murder charge can change your life forever. Murder is the unlawful killing of a human being with malice aforethought. If you are convicted of murder, you may be imprisoned for 25 years to life (without the possibility of parole). Because the death penalty has not been abolished in California, you can be sentenced to death.
Our extensive experience and knowledge give us the tools we need to successfully challenge murder charges.
We can evaluate a host of issues based on our analysis of the police reports, witness statements and other evidence both on file and uncovered during our investigation. Based on our findings, we may be able to construct powerful defenses in the pursuit of acquittal at trial or even pretrial dismissal of the charges.
There may also be circumstances in mitigation that permit reduction of charges from first-degree murder or second-degree murder to voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide.
Ernenwein & Mathes, LLP, consists of two experienced and aggressive Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers who have over 60 combined years of experience defending people accused of murder and other serious crimes.
Robert Ernenwein is former Los Angeles deputy district attorney who is certified as a Criminal Law Specialist by the California State Bar Board of Legal Specialization and has been selected for inclusion in California Super Lawyers for a number of years. He has also appeared as a legal analyst on multiple cable news programs, including Fox News.
If you believe you are a suspect in a murder or if you or a loved one is already in custody and facing murder charges, call us at 310-375-5858 or email us immediately for your free consultation. The anxiety that accompanies criminal charges is unparalleled by any other life-changing event, so call us today. That’s why our phone lines are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and we will meet with you on the weekend, if necessary.
A jury of seven men and five women deliberated for approximately nine hours as they determined the fate of Michael Jackson’s personal physician, Dr. Conrad Murray. The jury returned with a guilty verdict, meaning Murray would have to face the consequences of an involuntary manslaughter offense.
Involuntary manslaughter can be defined as the act of killing another unintentionally. It is different from other types of murder charges.
Murray received the maximum penalty of four years in prison. His Texas medical license was revoked, and his California and Nevada licenses were suspended. After serving two years, he was released on parole on Oct. 28, 2013. However, he could have gotten probation only. Why such a light charge for a criminal offense that involves death? In California, involuntary manslaughter is considered the lowest possible homicide offense.
Since involuntary manslaughter is the result of gross negligence or a misdemeanor act, it doesn’t carry the same penalties as other murder offenses. Many defenses are often available in cases of involuntary manslaughter, including:
Each case is different, which is why it is so important to talk with a Torrance criminal lawyer after being accused of involuntary manslaughter. An attorney can review the details surrounding the death and build a strong case on your behalf.
At Ernenwein & Mathes, LLP, we know what the prosecution looks at when trying cases. How? Robert Ernenwein is a former Los Angeles County deputy district attorney.
Contact Ernenwein & Mathes, LLP, Los Angeles and Orange County criminal defense lawyers today at 310-375-5858 for a free case review.
To Prove That You Are Guilty Of Murder, The Prosecutor Must Show That:
“Malice” is a term of art in criminal law that does not match the layperson or dictionary definition. In other words, it does not refer to ill will, hatred or malevolence toward the victim. One can harbor none of those emotions and still be convicted of murder because they acted with the necessary mental intent.
This intent is known as “malice aforethought,” which is bifurcated into “express” and “implied.”
Express malice is the unlawful intention to kill. But someone can be guilty of murder if they act with implied malice, that is, the defendant intentionally committed an act, the natural and probable consequences of which endangered (and were known to the defendant to endanger) human life, and the defendant acted with a conscious disregard to human or fetal life. Therefore, you do not need to intend to kill the victim. You need only have committed an act that imperiled someone’s life, i.e., dropping a cinder block from a freeway overpass, shooting into an occupied residence, inflicting severe bodily harm, etc.
The prosecutor will charge you with first-degree murder if:
There are special circumstances or aggravating factors that can elevate the crime to capital murder (punishable by death or life without the possibility of parole). These factors include the killing of a police officer or other specified public official, multiple murder, killing motivated by racial or religious bias and murder for the benefit of a criminal street gang, among others.
Any murder that does not fall into the category of first-degree murder is second-degree murder. Typically, these murders involve homicides that occur as a result of the “abandoned and malignant heart” of the defendant; in other words, homicides that involve an inordinately high degree of recklessness and carelessness. For example, if you have been convicted of DUI and subsequently kill someone in an accident while you are driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you may be charged with this crime. Other examples involve shooting a firearm into a dwelling, throwing a cement block from a freeway overpass or any other act that you should have known would endanger human life and you disregarded that risk by committing it anyway.
At Ernenwein & Mathes, LLP, our experienced Torrance criminal defense lawyers are skilled at thoroughly reviewing police reports, witness statements and any available forensic and other evidence. In murder cases, we use an investigator to interview witnesses. Our review of discovery and witness interviews may yield evidence that shows your innocence or diminishes or weakens the prosecution’s case against you. Depending on the facts and circumstances of your case, we may use any of the following defenses on your behalf.
In some murder cases, a mistaken identity defense can be used. The criminal defense attorney would argue that the wrong individual was charged for the murder. To prove that the wrong person was in fact charged, the defense lawyer can offer an alibi. In addition — or if an alibi is not available — the attorney can provide evidence that proves that the defendant was somewhere else at the time of the killing, that another person killed the individual, that eyewitness testimony is flawed, that forensic evidence is flawed in some manner, etc.
Often, a suggestive or prejudicial photo or in-person lineup can cause a witness to erroneously single you out as opposed to the actual perpetrator, leading the police to suspect you of the murder. We can challenge the police methods that led to your identification and demand a live lineup to verify whether the witness can actually identify you as the suspect.
In other murder cases, a criminal defense lawyer may use a self-defense argument. To prove this argument, however, the defense lawyer must show that the defendant used a timely and reasonable amount of force as defense. In other words, the force used by the defendant was proportional to the perceived threat.
The force used must be commensurate with the force you or a third party was in danger of sustaining. You cannot react to a threat of nonlethal force with a lethal response (i.e., using a gun in response to a threat of an unarmed attack). Also, you cannot use lethal force to defend against a legally privileged attack, such as the threat of lawful force by a police officer.
A successful argument asserting self-defense or defense of others will allow us to secure your acquittal at trial or a pretrial dismissal of your charges through conference with the prosecutor.
If you used force that was not measured to the threatened attack, but you still harbored an honest and good faith belief that you were about to sustain lethal force, we may be able to argue “imperfect self-defense.” Although this may not entirely absolve you of the homicide, it will give us an opportunity to secure a substantial reduction of the crime (i.e., from murder to voluntary manslaughter).
Another defense that can be used in murder cases is the “defense of others” argument. Once again, the criminal defense lawyer must prove that the force used by the defendant was timely and proportional to the perceived threat.
You may have heard that the insanity defense has been abolished. This is not entirely true. Under the so-called M’Naghten Rule, we may be able to argue that the defendant killed the victim only because they did not understand the nature of the act or could not distinguish between right and wrong. This often happens in instances arising out of postpartum depression or other serious mental diseases that figuratively render the defendant’s mind “hostage” to impulses reflective of the mental illness.
We will also look into whether the charges arise out of a confession or other admission or inculpatory statement. If the confession was the product of coercion (for example, if the police made threats against you or your family) we can motion the court to exclude the inculpatory statement. If the police had you in custody at the time and were interrogating you about a murder, and you made a confession without having been read your rights, we can motion the court to exclude that confession based on a violation of your Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
There may also be circumstances in mitigation. If you or a loved one was actually involved in a homicide, but the killing arose “in the heat of passion,” we can argue that the murder charges must be dismissed and that the case should be reduced to voluntary manslaughter. For example, if you witnessed your spouse in the midst of intercourse with another individual and you concurrently or very shortly thereafter committed the homicide, we can argue that your passions were inflamed and that you did not have sufficient time to cool off and react more calmly to the situation.
There are a host of issues we can evaluate based on our analysis of the police reports, witness statements and other evidence both on file and uncovered during our investigation. Based on our findings, we may be able to thwart a criminal prosecution in court or achieve acquittal at trial.
The team at Ernenwein & Mathes, LLP, includes aggressive, compassionate and experienced Torrance criminal defense lawyers with over 60 combined years of experience defending those accused of murder.
Robert Ernenwein is a former Los Angeles deputy district attorney and is certified as a Criminal Law Specialist by the California State Bar Board of Legal Specialization. The experience and capabilities he will bring to your murder case are tremendous.
Call us immediately at 310-375-5858 for your free consultation.
Without a doubt, it is the job of Torrance criminal defense lawyers to act as advocates for your case. As such, it is important to work with criminal defense attorneys who are both knowledgeable and experienced when it comes to properly defending you.
First-degree murder defenses that can be used by a California-based criminal defense lawyer include:
In some first-degree murder cases, a mistaken identity” defense can be used. The criminal defense attorney would argue that the wrong individual was charged for the murder. To prove that the wrong person was in fact charged, the defense lawyer can offer an alibi. In addition — or if an alibi is not available — the attorney can provide evidence that proves that the defendant was somewhere else at the time of the killing, that another person killed the individual, that eyewitness testimony is flawed, that forensic evidence is flawed in some manner, etc.
In other first-degree murder cases, the criminal defense lawyer can use a self-defense argument. To prove a self-defense argument, however, the defense lawyer must show that the defendant used a timely and reasonable amount of force as defense. In other words, the force used by the defendant was proportional to the perceived threat.
Another defense that can be used in first-degree murder cases is the defense of others argument. Once again, the criminal defense lawyer must prove that the force used by the defendant was timely and proportional to the perceived threat.
Of course, each individual case varies, and at Torrance criminal defense law firm Ernenwein & Mathes, LLP, we will determine which defense best suits your particular case.
Have you or someone you know been arrested on a murder charge? Contact Ernenwein & Mathes, LLP, to obtain a free consultation with an experienced Torrance criminal defense attorney.
It made national news quickly: An unarmed 17-year-old was shot and killed in Florida. Now, the alleged perpetrator, George Zimmerman, is at the center of heated debates. He faces charges of second-degree murder and, if convicted, he could be facing years behind bars.
While this case is in Florida, it has raised a lot of questions regarding second-degree murder charges in California and how our state punishes this type of crime. Before going into the specific penalties associated with second-degree murder, it is first important to understand how murder is defined by our state. According to California Penal Code Section 187, murder is described as “the unlawful killing of a human being, or a fetus, with malice aforethought.” Murder falls into two classifications-first degree and second degree.
If you killed someone willfully or deliberately, you could be charged with first-degree murder (there are many other factors that can lead to this charge, which should be discussed with an attorney). Second-degree murder charges typically involve an extremely high degree of recklessness and carelessness.
Just like Zimmerman, if you are accused of second-degree murder, in California you could be facing jail time. California Penal Code Section 190 states that “murder in the second degree shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for a term of 15 years to life.” However, just because you are charged with second-degree murder doesn’t necessarily mean you are destined to be behind bars. You can defend yourself and an attorney can help.
An experienced lawyer will be able to review the evidence against you and build a strong defense on your behalf. For example, an attorney may be able to weaken the prosecution’s case and help prove your innocence.
For more information or advice about your case, contact a skilled Torrance criminal defense lawyer by calling Ernenwein & Mathes, LLP, at 310-375-5858 or emailing us. We are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.