LEGAL INFORMATION FOR THOSE INDIVIDUALS IN OKLAHOMA CHARGED WITH HOMICIDE
The information provided in this pamphlet is not intended to be legal advice. The information provided in this pamphlet is intended to provide information for those individuals charged in Oklahoma state court with First Degree Murder, Second Degree Murder and Manslaugher. Kevin Adams is providing the reader of this page with basic legal information without applying that information to the specific facts of the reader’s case. You are strongly encouraged to seek legal advice from a licensed attorney who can apply his or her training and experience to the specific facts of your case.
I’ve been charged with homicide now what?
If a defendant has been formally charged by the District Attorney’s office, here are the major steps of the process that case will go through:
Initial Appearance : At the initial appearance, also known as an arraignment, the defendant will be informed of the charges against them and given a copy of the information. (The information is the document that formally charges you with a crime.) A defendant is generally expected to have an attorney at the initial appearance; if the defendant does not have an attorney at the initial appearance, the initial appearance may be passed to allow the defendant time to hire an attorney. At the initial appearance a preliminary hearing date will be set.
Preliminary Hearing : At the preliminary hearing, the state is required to produce evidence sufficient enough to convince a judge that there is probable cause to believe a crime has been committed and probable cause to believe that the defendant committed the crime. If the state fails to meet its burden, the case will be dismissed. Defendants are typically provided with a copy of all the police reports related to the crime at least 5 days prior to the preliminary hearing. If the state meets its burden of proof, the case will be “bound over” for District Court Arraignment.
District Court Arraignment : At the District Court Arraignment the defendant will have another arraignment and a trial date will be set.
Trial : A defendant has a right to a trial by jury of his or her peers. To be convicted at trial a defendant’s guilt must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. The defendant has the right to be present, represented by counsel and to hear and see all the evidence presented against them.
I’ve been accused of a homicide what are my rights?
Those accused of crimes have many rights too numerous to fully explain in this brochure. Listed below is a brief explanation of some of the most important rights:
- The right to a jury trial by a jury of his or her peers
- The right not to testify and the right not to have any negative inference drawn because of the defendant’s choice not to testify
- The right to be represented by competent counsel throughout the proceedings. If the defendant is without the funds to hire an attorney the defendant is entitled to have an attorney appointed to represent him or her
- The defendant has an Oklahoma Constitutional right to a preliminary hearing where the state must introduce evidence to establish probable cause that a crime was committed and probable cause that the defendant committed the crime.
- The defendant has a right to hear all the evidence presented against him or her and the right to cross-examine the witnesses against the defendant
- The defendant has the right to call witnesses on their own behalf and to use the Court’s process to compel witnesses to come to Court and testify for them.
What are the most common degrees of Homicide, how are they determined and what punishments do they carry?
1st Degree Murder —There are three ways to commit 1 st Degree murder:
Malice and Forethought Murder —the state must prove the defendant caused the death of a human with the deliberate intent to take away the life of a human being.
1 st Degree Felony Murder —the state must prove the death of a human occurred as a result of the defendant’s commission of one of several crimes. The state does not have to prove the defendant intended to cause the death.
Child Abuse Murder —the state must prove the death of a child under the age of eighteen occurred as a result of the defendant’s commission of child abuse or willfully permitting of child abuse. The state does not have to prove the defendant intended to cause the death of the child.
2 nd Degree Murder —There are two ways to commit Second Degree Murder:
By Imminently Dangerous Conduc t—the state must prove that because of the defendant’s imminently dangerous conduct, which demonstrated a depraved mind in extreme disregard of human life, and the death a human resulted.
2nd Degree Felony Murder —the state must prove the death of a human occurred as a result of the defendant’s commission of any felony that does not serve as a basis for 1 st degree felony murder. The state does not have to prove the defendant intended to cause the death.
1 st Degree Manslaughter— There are three ways to commit 1 st Degree Manslaughter they are as follows;
Misdemeanor Manslaughter — the state must prove the death of a human occurred as a result of the defendant’s commission of a misdemeanor. The state does not have to prove the defendant intended to cause the death. (Even though called Misdemeanor Manslaughter this is the felony offense of 1 st Degree Manslaughter.)
Heat of Passion Manslaughter —the state must prove the non-excusable or non-justified death of a human that was inflicted in a cruel and unusual manner while the defendant was in the heat of passion. Or the state must prove the non-excusable or non-justified death of a human that was inflicted by means of a dangerous weapon while the defendant was in the heat of passion.
Resisting a Criminal Attempt —the state must prove the death of a human perpetrated unnecessarily by the defendant while resisting an attempt by the deceased to commit a crime.
Punishments for Homicide
1 st Degree Murder is punishable by;
- Life in Prison with Parole (38 calendar years before eligible for parole),
- or Life in Prison without Parole (the defendant will never be released)
- or Death (To qualify for the death penalty, the state is required to prove the existence of at least one of eight aggravating factors.)
2 nd Degree Murder is punishable by;
- Not less than 10 years nor more than Life
1 st Degree Manslaughter is punishable by;
- Not less than 4 years in prison
What are the common defenses to Homicide?
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 charged with a homicide. Some of the most common defenses are;
Self Defense —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 1 st 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.
What factors should I consider in hiring an attorney?
If your friends or family have access to the internet, the Oklahoma Bar Association has a web page that may assist you in making this important decision. Use this address to go directly to that page:
Because of the serious nature of homicide cases, you are strongly encouraged to find a lawyer with significant homicide trial experience. Most homicide cases go to trial. Ask any lawyer that you are considering hiring how many homicide trials they have handled, what the results of those trials were, and the defendant’s names and case numbers of those cases. An experienced lawyer should have no problem providing you with this information. After receiving this information you are encouraged to verify it.
Where can I go to find a lawyer?
This is a free service that also includes an ethics and legal ability ratings system for the lawyers. You can search by practice area and location with this website.
Disclaimer: Kevin D. Adams only provides legal advice after having entered into an attorney client relationship, which this website specifically does not create. Only after having entered into a representation agreement with Kevin D. Adams will an attorney-client relationship have been created. It is imperative that any action taken by you should be done on advice of legal counsel.* Because every case is different, the descriptions of outcomes and cases previously handled are not meant to be a guarantee of success.
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Tulsa Criminal Defense Lawyer: Kevin D. Adams