Homicide is the unlawful killing of one person by another. There are various degrees of homicide that can be charged in Michigan, each more serious than the next. Homicide cases are incredibly complicated and difficult, as one false move could result in a sentence of life in prison, without parole. Because of the utmost seriousness of a homicide charge, it is critical that anyone charged with homicide retains experienced murder defense lawyers immediately. The skilled and knowledgeable Michigan homicide attorneys at Nessel and Kessel Law can not only successfully represent defendants accused of murder in the courtroom, but explain the differences in homicide charges as well.
First Degree Murder (Murder 1)
Murder 1 is the most serious charge that can be brought in Michigan. If convicted of First Degree Murder, a defendant is required by law to serve the rest of their life in prison, without the possibility of parole. Murder 1 charges fall into two categories: (1) premeditated murder, and (2) felony murder. Each of these different kinds of murder contain separate elements, but both of them can meet the requirements of Murder 1.
The name of this crime speaks for itself. In order to sustain a conviction, the prosecutor must prove – beyond a reasonable doubt – that the defendant planned to commit the crime of murder. Contrary to what you may see on television, this does not mean that the prosecutor needs to show that a murder was carefully thought out and planned. According to the law, premeditation can take place in a matter of seconds.
Felony murder is any death that is the result of, or takes place during the commission of certain other felonies. The law states that the death does not even have to be intentional to allow for a charge of Murder 1. Those felonies are arson, criminal sexual conduct in the first, second, or third degree, child abuse in the first degree, a major controlled substance offense, robbery, carjacking, breaking and entering of a dwelling, home invasion in the first or second degree, larceny of any kind, extortion, kidnapping, vulnerable adult abuse in the first and second degree, torture or aggravated stalking.
Second Degree Murder (Murder 2)
Second Degree Murder is also punishable by life in prison, but unlike Murder 1 it is not mandatory that a defendant serve natural life. Murder 2 may be punishable by any term of years set by the court. The elements of Murder 2 can be somewhat confusing because there are multiple “intent levels” that can sustain a conviction for Murder two.
The basic elements that need to be proved – beyond a reasonable bount – in order to be convicted of Murder 2 are: (1) a death took place, (2) that the death was caused by an act of the defendant, (3) that the defendant acted with malice, and (4) that the defendant was without justification or excuse.
In order to establish “malice”, the prosecutor must show that the defendant either: (1) intended to kill; (2) intent to commit great bodily harm; or (3) intent to create a very high risk of death or great bodily harm with the knowledge that death or great bodily harm is the probable result.
Manslaughter is a crime that is punishable by 15 years in prison. It is often described as murder that occurs “in the heat of passion.” It is a killing that it without malice and without premeditation. Because of the split second during which premeditation can take place, it takes a skilled attorney to argue a Murder 1 or 2 charge down to Manslaughter.
An Involuntary Manslaughter conviction, like that of Manslaughter, can result in a sentence of 15 years in prison. As the name indicates, in order to be convicted of Involuntary Manslaughter, the prosecutor must prove that a killing took place, without malice and unintentionally, but took place while the defendant was doing some unlawful act not amounting to felony nor naturally tending to cause death or great bodily harm, or in negligently doing some act lawful in itself, or in negligently omitting to perform legal duty. More simply, Involuntary Manslaughter is an accidental killing.
Michigan Murder Defense Attorney
Murder cases always involve forensic evidence, which can be difficult to sift through and even more difficult to use to your advantage. Prosecutors in homicide cases often start with an advantage of not having a complainant to put on the stand, meaning they can avoid having their “victim” face rigorous cross examination. They will put photo after photo of the decedent on display for the jury, usually showing them to be upright, honorable, and loving…even when they are often times criminals themselves. Especially when considering the life-damaging consequences of a homicide conviction, it is vital that defendants seek the assistance of experienced and knowledgeable Michigan murder defense attorneys who can wade through the prosecutor’s case and find the key to acquittal.