No matter the evidence or facts of the case, any homicide charge is serious and could result in devastating penalties. And despite a 2018 ruling by the Washington State Supreme Court that the way the state administers the death penalty is unconstitutional, the state legislature has yet to abolish capital punishment in the state. In some cases, a defense to a murder charge may be that the homicide was excusable or justifiable. An experienced criminal defense attorney who has successfully defended clients in murder cases will consider several potential defense options that range from obtaining a dismissal to negotiating a plea agreement to going to trial. An attorney might use the defense of justifiable or excusable homicide in situations where the defendant is not denying that their actions resulted in someone else's death, such as cases in which multiple witnesses identified the defendant or security camera footage showed the killing.
A murder conviction requires proof of intent and premeditation or planning in the case of first degree murder, and having intent and/or committing a felony when the homicide occurred in the case of second degree murder. If the homicide was accidental but due to negligence, the defendant may face manslaughter charges. Washington state law defines excusable homicide as causing the death of someone by accident while doing a lawful act and without criminal, negligent or unlawful intent. Justifiable homicide is typically thought of as self-defense. So, if you killed someone who was threatening you or a family member (technically if they were planning to commit a felony against you or cause great personal injury to you or others), or if someone was committing a felony against you in your home, you may have a justifiable homicide defense. Homicide cases are complex, as they often involve understanding (or proving) the intent of the defendant.
Prevailing at trial with a self-defense or excusable homicide defense may be extremely difficult, and whether to pursue such defenses is up to you and your attorney. If you are facing murder charges, a skilled homicide lawyer will look at the facts of your case, investigate the evidence, talk to witnesses and develop a defense strategy.
Peale Law Firm Inc. has been defending clients accused of major crimes in Washington State for more than 40 years. If you are facing homicide charges or are seeking legal advice from a successful criminal defense attorney, contact our Seattle offices at (206) 429-4777 or contact us online for a free consultation.