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Was it murder or self-defense?

If you are ever in the unfortunate position of being accused of murder, you may be able to take the affirmative defense that what occurred was self-defense and not murder. But make no mistake, this defense is not easy to establish and can easily be contradicted by forensic evidence at the scene.

But first, let’s examine some basic facts about what constitutes murder.

The definition of murder

One definition of murder according to Cornell Law University’s Legal Information Institute is that “[m]urder is the unlawful killing of a human being with malice aforethought.” The premise is that while all murders fall under the umbrella of homicide, not all of the homicides can be classified as murders.

For instance, self-defense might include testimony that yes, you did kill the other person, but only to keep them from killing you or another person.

The role of intent

You could accidentally kill someone while never intending to do so. Perhaps you are cleaning your gun and drop it. The bullet that you did not realize was in the chamber discharges and kills a person in the next room. Did you kill them? You did, but it was unintentional because you didn’t intend to do so and it was a terrible accident.

Self-defense is not a blanket defense

If you are in a rowdy crowd and get jostled, a fight might ensue. You could get punched in the face. Does that mean you can whip out your gun and shoot the guy who punched you? Here, the courts could rule against you because your use of force may have been excessive based on the circumstances, e.g., that a single punch does not justify a gunshot. 

However, if you were the victim of an angry mob bent on beating you senseless, you could credibly argue that the force you used to subdue the aggressors was necessary to your survival.

Affirmative murder defenses require special skills

Not every defense attorney is qualified to defend a murder case, so choose wisely when selecting who will best protect your rights and freedom.