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All forms of homicide are serious criminal charges that should be handled by an experienced criminal defense trial attorney. If you or a loved one is facing a murder or manslaughter charge you should read Hiring the Best Attorney to Fight your Murder Charge in Oklahoma and Tips for Hiring a Criminal Lawyer in Oklahoma before you hire a criminal defense lawyer. To learn more about me you can visit About Kevin or you can see previous results I have achieved in homicide cases.
The Oklahoma Statute that covers First Degree Murder in the State of Oklahoma is Title 21 O.S. Section 701.7. Oklahoma statutes provide that there are four (5) ways to commit homicide in our state. The three most common types of First (1st) Degree Murder charges that are filed in Oklahoma are:
Malice Aforethought Murder
Felony Murder and
Child Abuse Murder
Each way is explained below:
Malice Aforethought Murder is what most people think of when they think of First (1st) Degree Murder. Title 21 O.S. Section 701.7 (A) defines this type of murder as:
A person commits murder in the first degree when that person unlawfully and with malice aforethought causes the death of another human being. Malice is that deliberate intention unlawfully to take away the life of a human being, which is manifested by external circumstances capable of proof.
In some states this is referred to as “Premeditated Murder”. Oklahoma uses “Malice Aforethought” instead of “Premeditated Murder”. “Malice Aforethought” is defined as:
“Malice aforethought" means a deliberate intention to take away the life of a human being. As used in these instructions, “malice aforethought” does not mean hatred, spite or ill-will. The deliberate intent to take a human life must be formed before the act and must exist at the time a homicidal act is committed. No particular length of time is required for formation of this deliberate intent. The intent may have been formed instantly before commission of the act. (See Oklahoma Uniform Jury Instruction CR-4-62)
So to Convict Someone of Malice Aforethought Murder in Oklahoma the prosecution must prove the following:
No person may be convicted of murder in the first degree unless the State has proved beyond a reasonable doubt each element of the crime. These elements are:
First, the death of a human;
Second, the death was unlawful;
Third, the death was caused by the defendant;
Fourth, the death was caused with malice aforethought.
All First (1st) Degree Murders are felonies. But, when the term “Felony Murder” is used it means that the death resulted from the commission of an enumerated felony. For example if a defendant robbed a liquor store and a death resulted from that robbery the law says that death is a First (1st) Degree Murder. Even if the defendant never intended on hurting anyone. A defendant could be convicted of Felony Murder if during the robbery the clerk had a heart attack and died. Or if during the robbery the clerk attempted to shoot the robber and accidentally shot a customer. Or a common scenarios is a defendant is driving a get away car and his co-defendant robs a store and kills a clerk, in that circumstance both the driver and the shooter could be convicted of Felony Murder. Felony Murder in Oklahoma is defined by Title 21 O.S. Section 701.7 (B) as:
A person also commits the crime of murder in the first degree, regardless of malice, when that person or any other person takes the life of a human being during, or if the death of a human being results from, the commission or attempted commission of murder of another person, shooting or discharge of a firearm or crossbow with intent to kill, intentional discharge of a firearm or other deadly weapon into any dwelling or building as provided in Section 1289.17A of this title, forcible rape, robbery with a dangerous weapon, kidnapping, escape from lawful custody, eluding an officer, first degree burglary, first degree arson, unlawful distributing or dispensing of controlled dangerous substances or synthetic controlled substances, trafficking in illegal drugs, or manufacturing or attempting to manufacture a controlled dangerous substance.
Under Oklahoma law the death of a child that results from child abuse is First (1st) Degree Murder. Child Abuse Murder is defined by Title 21 O.S. Section 701.7 © as:
A person commits murder in the first degree when the death of a child results from the willful or malicious injuring, torturing, maiming or using of unreasonable force by said person or who shall willfully cause, procure or permit any of said acts to be done upon the child pursuant to Section 843.5 of this title. It is sufficient for the crime of murder in the first degree that the person either willfully tortured or used unreasonable force upon the child or maliciously injured or maimed the child.
Child Abuse Murder charges are most commonly seen with shaken baby cases. These are very difficult cases and in my opinion the most difficult type of criminal case to handle other than death penalty cases.
Oklahoma has some one of the harshest punishments for First (1st) Degree Murder in the country. In Oklahoma the minimum for First (1st) Degree Murder is Life. A Life sentence in Oklahoma means the defendant must serve 38 Calendar years before being eligible for parole. Murder also carries the possibility of a sentence of Life Without Parole which means a defendant never gets out of prison. And in some circumstance the punishment for First (1st) Degree Murder is Death.
The defenses available to a defendant charged with Homicide vary depending upon the facts of the individual case. Of course if another person committed the homicide that certainly may serve as a factual defense. However, there are also other legal defenses available to an individual who caused the death but is not legally guilty of homicide. Some of the most common defenses are;
a person is justified in using deadly force in self-defense if that person reasonably believed that the use of deadly force was necessary to protect himself/herself from imminent danger of death or great bodily harm.
Self Defense (Battered Women Cases)
a person is justified in using deadly force in self-defense if that person reasonably believed that the use of deadly force was necessary to protect herself from imminent danger of death or great bodily harm. Self-defense is a defense although the danger to the life or personal security may have not been real, if a person, in the circumstances and viewpoint of the defendant would reasonably have believed she was in imminent danger.
Defense of Another
a person is justified in using deadly force in defense of another if that person reasonably believed the use of deadly force was necessary to protect that person from imminent danger of death or great bodily harm.
Burden of Proof in Defense of Self & Defense of Another
in order to convict a defendant the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person was not acting in self-defense or defense of another when committing the act that caused the death.
Mitigation to a lesser degree of Homicide
Frequently, district attorneys will file the most serious charge the evidence could possibly justify. Oftentimes, a sound trial strategy will include mitigating a homicide from 1st Degree Murder down to a lesser degree of Homicide. While mitigating a Homicide to a lesser degree may require a defendant to go to prison, it can result in a greatly reduced sentence and often times can mean the difference between a defendant being released from prison one day in the future or spending the rest of his or her life incarcerated.
Reduction with a Plea Agreement
Sometimes a First Degree Murder charge can be reduced to 2nd Degree Murder with a sentence less than a life sentence through a plea agreement with the prosecution. These pleas are most likely to occur when the state prosecutor realizes that he is facing a zealous defense attorney that is prepared to try the case to a jury.
Send your questions to LawyerAdams@me.com I try to respond to all inquires as quickly as possible. If you need immediate assistance you can call my office (918) 582-1313 or my cell phone (918) 230-9513. If you are in need of emergency assistance feel free to call my cell phone anytime either day or night.