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Murder / Homicide
If you or someone you love has been charged with murder in SC, you are at risk of losing everything.
As soon as you are charged - or - as soon as you know that you may be a suspect, you need to have an experienced SC criminal defense attorney advising you. Murder cases become complex quickly, they are investigated and prosecuted aggressively, and missteps made early in the case often result in conviction at trial.What Are Common Issues in SC Murder Prosecutions?
In many cases, law enforcement will attempt to interview a suspect before they serve warrants on them – do not talk to police or investigators until you have talked to your attorney.
What are some common issues that arise in SC murder prosecutions?
- Interrogations – police are not trying to clear your name. You can’t talk your way out of charges and you don’t know what they have already been told. If investigators want to question you, call your attorney first.
- Jailhouse informants – everyone in jail has a pending charge, and everyone wants “help” on their charges. If you talk to someone in the jail about your case or if they can access your discovery documents, you may have given them enough information to lie and say that you “confessed” to them so that they can get a reduction on their own charges.
- Police and prosecutorial misconduct – police and prosecutors believe that you are guilty whether you are or not. They want to get justice for the victim’s family, and the media is watching. They are under a lot of pressure to solve murder cases and get convictions, and, more than any other type of case, this can lead to less-than-ethical conduct by both police and prosecutors in many cases.
- Forensic evidence – in murder investigations and prosecutions, the state will use every resource that they have available to get a conviction. This means that the state will have expert witnesses prepared to testify -and- you may need to have expert witnesses to help prepare your defense, examine the evidence, and testify at your trial.
Murder is the killing of any person with malice aforethought, either express or implied.
Murder is the most serious crime in South Carolina and is punishable by a minimum of 30 years imprisonment up to life or by death if certain aggravating circumstances are present.What Is Malice Aforethought?
Malice aforethought is the mental state that must be proven by the prosecution to obtain a murder conviction.
Depending on the prosecution's theory, malice aforethought could mean:
- Intent to kill;
- Intent to inflict grievous bodily harm;
- Reckless indifference to the value of human life; or
- Intent to commit a felony.
If malice is not proven, and if there was sufficient legal provocation on the part of the alleged victim, the defendant may be convicted of the lesser offense of manslaughter instead of murder.What Are the Most Common Defenses to Murder in SC?
Depending on the facts of your case, many defenses may be available. These may include:
- Defense of others; or
- Someone else did it.
Defenses to murder charges tend to fall into one of two categories: 1) Someone else did it; or 2) It was a justifiable homicide.SC’s “Stand Your Ground” Law – The Protection of Persons and Property Act
In South Carolina, you have a right to defend yourself if you are attacked, to defend someone else if they are attacked, and, in most cases, you do not have a duty to retreat. You also have the right to eject persons from your property using reasonable force.
South Carolina has taken these self-defense principles even further by passing SC’s “stand your ground” law, SC Code Section 16-11-410. If someone is unlawfully trying to come into your home or vehicle, or a home or vehicle where you have a right to be, or if they are trying to remove you from that home or vehicle, you have the right to defend yourself including by using deadly force.
Even if you are not in a home or vehicle – you are walking down the street or shopping at a local department store – you have no duty to retreat and you have the right to defend yourself with deadly force if necessary.
If SC’s stand your ground law applies to your situation, we will request a pretrial hearing where we can present evidence of what happened and why you have immunity from prosecution under SC law. If the court agrees, your case will be dismissed, and you will not have to go to trial.Attacking the State’s Evidence in a Murder Prosecution
The state’s strongest evidence in a murder prosecution may involve forensic evidence, statements made by the defendant, and eyewitness testimony.
When you have issues in your case such as a coerced confession, faulty eyewitness identification, or errors in the collection or analysis of the evidence in your case, we will help you to retain the experts that you need to attack the state's case.
Private criminal defense investigators can help to reconstruct the investigation in your case and to locate or investigate potential witnesses, and we have access to a wide range of experts who can review the evidence, give us their opinion, and, when appropriate, testify at your trial about issues like:
- Crime scene analysis;
- Gunshot residue (GSR) tests;
- DNA analysis;
- Fingerprint comparisons;
- Shoeprint comparisons;
- Cross-racial identifications;
- Coerced confessions; or
- Any other evidentiary issue that is key to your prosecution.
Law enforcement and prosecutors are under intense pressure and scrutiny from the public to solve murder cases and to obtain convictions. The state will likely bring all its resources to bear to obtain a conviction in every murder case, and it is essential that you have a determined and aggressive SC criminal defense lawyer on your side.
If you have been charged with Murder in South Carolina, call the Thompson & Hiller Defense Firm now at (843) 444-6122 or contact us online as soon as possible to find out how we can help.