There is no criminal offence more serious than murder. Murder cases attract the most comprehensive police investigation, zealous prosecution, and the harshest penalties known to law.
The penalty for murder is life imprisonment. Period. Regardless of whether the verdict is first degree or second degree, the penalty is Life. The difference is in the period of time that must be served before the offender is eligible for supervised release on parole. For first degree murder, the minimum is 25 years, but is often longer; for second degree murder, the minimum is 10 years, but is often longer. For manslaughter, there is no minimum penalty, and no minimum period of parole ineligibility. Clearly, from the client’s perspective, there is a huge difference between these results.
Homicide occurs when one person causes the death of another person. There are two types of homicide: “culpable” and “non-culpable”. The law is only concerned with culpable homicide.
Homicide is defined in the Criminal Code as follows:
(6) Notwithstanding anything in this section, a person does not commit homicide within the meaning of this Act by reason only that he causes the death of a human being by procuring, by false evidence, the conviction and death of that human being by sentence of the law.
R.S., c. C-34, s. 205.
There are three types of culpable homicide: murder, manslaughter or infanticide.
Infanticide is the rare occurrence where a mother kills her new-born child.
The definition of murder is complicated, and can occur in several different ways:
Murder is first degree in the following circumstances:
Murder that is not first degree murder is automatically second degree murder.
Homicide that does not meet the definition of murder is manslaughter.
Homicides are long, complicated, highly intense affairs where the stakes cannot be higher. The deck is stacked against the defendant because when a homicide is involved, police and prosecutors have almost unlimited resources to fight the case. The client, on the other hand, is usually in custody and has limited resources. Homicide cases often take several years to get to trial. Unlike most criminal cases, the police continue to investigate homicides for months or even years after an arrest; they will use surveillance, wiretaps, and even jailhouse informants to gather evidence against their target while s/he is awaiting trial.These complexities mean that to stand a fighting chance of maintaining your innocence, you need a lawyer with the expertise to defend you properly.
Because of the huge differences between first and second degree murder, and manslaughter, every piece of evidence must be carefully analyzed to determine whether the various elements of these offences can be proved by the Crown. It will often be necessary for the defence to hire private investigators to interview witnesses and to track down evidence. In many cases, despite their complexity and size, the verdict will turn on the tiniest pieces of evidence which can point away from the strict definitions of murder.
These cases usually generate enormous amounts of evidence, including forensic evidence, hundreds of statements, hours of video and thousands of pages of transcript evidence and handwritten police notes. These cases require lawyers who know how to organize and classify large volumes of documents, and can use technology to their advantage in preparing a case.
Only the toughest and most tenacious homicide detectives and prosecutors work murder cases, and it takes a team of criminal defence lawyers with the experience, stamina and willingness to fight against the odds to defend the client to the fullest. At The Defence Group, we have former Crown attorneys who have both prosecuted and defended murder cases and can bring all of those skills to your defence.Back
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