The Prosecution of Cop Killers: Who Will Handle the Case Against Christopher Jordan Dorner?

February 12, 2013

The manhunt for Christopher Jordan Dorner continues to receive world headlines. Although it is pretty clear among the public that Dorner will likely not surrender without a fight, one key question remains up in the air: what will happen to Christopher Jordan Dorner if captured alive?

At this point, assuming that Dorner is captured alive, either the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office or the Orange County District Attorney’s Office would likely get to prosecute him first. This is because Dorner is suspected of killing Riverside police Officer Michael Crain and as well as a college basketball coach and her fiance in Irvine.

Although both the Riverside and Orange County District Attorney’s Offices are certainly qualified to handle Dorner’s prosecution, don’t think for one second that Dorner’s attempted murder of two LAPD officers in Corona will go unnoticed, let alone unpunished.

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Can One "Walk" on a Murder Case

September 27, 2012

Murder is the most serious crime on the books. A conviction can lead to life in prison and sometimes even the death penalty.

In some cases, a person who commits a killing can get the charge reduced to manslaughter or even involuntary manslaughter. Both of these can still lead to prison, but usually a far shorter sentence than an actual murder conviction.

In other cases, a person who does a killing can “walk” (that is, not suffer any conviction and not be sentenced to any custody time). We call these instances in California law of excusable or justifiable homicide.

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The Highest Form of Murder

September 14, 2012

Whenever someone gets charged with murder, one of the first questions people ask is “Will the D.A. seek the death penalty?”

Prosecutors do have a great deal of discretion as to when to seek capital punishment. But they can’t do it in every homicide case. They can only do it when there are “special circumstances” in California murder cases.

Special circumstances refer to what society adjudges to be the most serious, aggravated or heinous types of killings. Examples would include murdering a prosecutor or judge in retaliation for their work, or murder by torture of lying in wait for the victim.

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When Can Prosecutors File Charges Against a Minor in Adult Court in California?

The most recent twist in the shocking alleged shooting death of an Orange County Neo-Nazi activist by his 10-year-old son is the filing of a criminal complaint against his stepmother alleging child endangerment.

There’s no question the 26-year-old stepmother will be dealt with if at all by the adult criminal justice system. But what about her 10-year-old stepson? When can prosecutors file charges against a minor in adult court in California?

The answer is it depends…but in no event does California law allow a 10-year-old to be charged with murder in adult court…no matter how serious.

Generally speaking, juvenile delinquency court in California has jurisdiction over minors who violate laws when they are under the age of 18. The proceedings are considered civil as opposed to criminal in nature and a sustained petition in juvenile delinquency court leads to a juvenile “adjudication” as opposed to a “conviction.”

But in very serious cases, minors who are 14 and over can be charged under the general law in courts of criminal jurisdiction. That means they can be tried in adult criminal court. Under Welfare & Institutions Code Section 707, those cases include murder, robbery, carjacking, kidnapping and committing a felony while personally armed with a firearm, under certain circumstances.

Indeed, in the most serious cases, minors 14 and over must be must be tried in adult court. Under W&I Sec. Section 602(b), those cases include special circumstances murder where the prosecutor alleges the minor personally killed the victim and certain kinds of sex offenses.

Murder Highlights Safety Concerns at Los Angeles Men’s Central Jail

April 14, 2011

A 20 year-old inmate named Jonathan Najera was recently killed by his cellmate at the Los Angeles County's Men's Central Jail facility. Najera had previously expressed concerns for his safety to his attorney who made the judge aware of the situation. He was found dead after his cellmate dragged his body out of their cell during an early morning "pill call." Najera's cellmate confessed to the killing. But no further details have been released.

Inmate safety has been a concern for inmates, their families and defense attorney for many years. Typically, if there is an inmate safety concern, attorneys have a duty to express these concerns to the judge in the courtroom where the inmate's case is being handled. The judge is then supposed to submit an order to the Sheriff's Department ordering them to review the housing of the inmate and make changes, if appropriate. Inmates and attorneys may also express safety concerns to the Sheriff's Department's Operation Safe Jails (OSJ) at Las Angeles Men's Central Jail. OSJ is then supposed to evaluate the situation and make any appropriate changes to the inmate's housing.

In Najera's case, although his attorney did express to the judge the safety concerns and the judge did ask the Sheriff's Department to reevaluate Najera's housing situation, sheriff's officials stated that they never received the judge's request.

Dr. Conrad Murray Attempts to Prove that Michael Jackson Killed Himself

March 16, 2011

In the continuing case against Dr. Conrad Murray…the man accused of killing superstar Michael Jackson when he allegedly acted “without due caution or circumspection”…the defense is zeroing in on a broken syringe that was discovered under Jackson’s deathbed. Dr. Murray insists that he didn’t break the syringe which…according to his theory…would mean that Jackson did, since they were reportedly the only two people in the room prior to Jackson’s death.

Murray’s defense team is asking the FBI to deliver a first-generation fingerprint from the syringe in order to determine who used and broke it. If Murray can show that it was Jackson whose prints appear on the syringe, that would be consistent with the defense theory that Jackson killed himself by injecting himself with a massive overdose of Propofol while Murray was out of the room.

The Penalties for Violating California's Murder Law

September 22, 2010

The penalties for violating Penal Code 187 PC California’s murder law vary quite a bit, depending on the exact circumstances of your case. They can range anywhere from fifteen years in the California state prison to death.

If you are convicted of first-degree murder, you face 25 years-to-life in prison. First-degree murder is any murder that (1) is premeditated, (2) involves torture, “lying in wait” or explosive devices, or (3) occurs during the commission of specifically enumerated violent felonies.
If you are convicted of first-degree murder with special circumstances…commonly referred to as capital murder…you face life in prison without the possibility of parole or execution. Capital murder is essentially aggravated first-degree murder. Examples of capital murder include murdering another person for money, murdering more than one victim, or murdering someone based on their sex, religion, race, etc.

Finally, if you are convicted of second-degree murder…that is, any murder that is not first-degree murder or reduced to manslaughter…you face fifteen years-to-life in prison. And if you were previously convicted of murder, specifically intended to kill a police officer, committed murder while engaged in a “drive by shooting”, or are guilty of second-degree murder under a variety of other circumstances, you could increase your sentence by an additional five or ten years or perhaps even face a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

If you or a loved one is charged with Penal Code 187 PC California’s murder law, immediately speak to a skilled California criminal defense attorney who can try to reduce the charge or mitigate the punishment.