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Capital Murder Questions

Capital murder is the act of murder that can carry a death sentence. Also known as capital homicide, capital murder carries one of the harshest penalties of all types of murderous acts. Because of the seriousness of the offense, capital murder charges can lead to many legal issues and questions. Below are a few of the more often asked questions about capital murder.

In 2007 a woman was charged with felony murder and 1st degree arson for setting fire that killed 3 people. This week a woman was charged with capital murder for a shooting that killed a young lady. How does the DA office determine the level of charges against a defendant? Both were terrible acts...one used a gun another used a match... results are the same. Why different charges?

Felony murder occurs when a person is committing a felony and during the act, is responsible for the death of another individual. Capital murder is the act of planning or intending on killing an individual. The circumstances for Capital murder usually fall under these factors:

“(1) the person murders a peace officer or fireman who is acting in the lawful discharge of an official duty and who the person knows is a peace officer or fireman;
(2) the person intentionally commits the murder in the course of committing or attempting to commit kidnapping, burglary, robbery, aggravated Sexual Assault, arson, obstruction or retaliation, or terroristic threat under Section 22.07(a)(1), (3), (4), (5), or (6);
(3) the person commits the murder for remuneration or the promise of remuneration or employs another to commit the murder for remuneration or the promise of remuneration;
(4) the person commits the murder while escaping or attempting to escape from a penal institution

The difference in these two murders are that one intended to kill another individual when she shot a person, while the other person unintentionally killed three people while committing a felony act of arson. However, if the person who committed the arson intended on killing the three people, the crime would then be capital murder.

I have a brother who has been accused of a capital murder crime of a horrific nature. He is innocent, has proof of his innocence, has witnesses, and his incarnation borders on insane. However, he is poor and cannot hire an attorney. His court appointed attorneys are obviously working for the prosecution. The attorney won't work with my brother and even walked out on my brother while in mid sentence. How do we get another attorney through the court? Is there anything I can do?

In order for your brother to get another court appointed attorney, he will have to file a motion with the court. In the motion, he will ask that his current attorney be dismissed and a new court appointed attorney be assigned. In order for this to happen, your brother will have to explain and have evidence that the current attorney is insensitive to your brother's needs and there is no way to repair the attorney-client relationship.

The following is taken from the California Supreme Court:

“Although an indigent defendant possesses a right under the Sixth Amendment to the assistance of court-appointed counsel, he or she does not have an unlimited right to require the trial court to discharge appointed counsel and appoint substitute counsel. People v. Marsden, 2 Cal.3d 118 (1970).”

The trial court will have the final say as to whether a new attorney will be appointed to your brother. If your brother has enough evidence that his current court appointed attorney is not assisting your brother to the best of his ability, the court should allow your brother a new attorney. However, if there isn't enough evidence of an insufficient attorney, the court probably will deny a new attorney. Your brother will have to be the one to request a new attorney. There is nothing that you can do to change the situation.

I have a friend that was convicted of capital murder and was given a life sentence. What route should he take to appeal this sentence to potentially get out of jail?

This is a question that has many factors that cannot completely be answered for a specific question without all of the facts. Usually, in the situation such as this in the more generic form, the first step would be for the person to hire an attorney.

The attorney would then file for an appeal through the appellate court. When this is done, the aim of the appeal is based on an error of law, not whether or not the person is guilty. Your friend will have to show that his rights has been violated such as certain evidence not being given that could have changed the outcome of the trial, or statements that were made that should have been kept from the trial. You should have an attorney assisting your friend through this process due to the difficult nature. If your friend cannot afford to hire an attorney, you may want to check a local law school for assistance.

Capital murder is a serious charge that has the potential to carry the death penalty. If you find yourself in a situation that involves capital murder, or just have questions, you should seek legal help. Asking a Legal Expert for insights and opinions based on an evaluation of your case particulars could be the first step.

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