Expert Litigation in Murder and Other Forms of Homicide
There are various forms of criminal homicide in Colorado. For example, there is first degree murder-after deliberation, first degree-felony murder, second degree murder, second degree murder involving heat of passion, reckless manslaughter and vehicular homicide. Each of the foregoing offenses require the State to prove beyond a reasonable doubt certain elements comprising each offense.
The foregoing offenses are generally distinguished by the alleged mental state of the accused. First degree murder-after deliberation requires that the accused act not only intentionally but also after deliberation when causing death. First degree murder-felony murder requires the killing of another, not a participant, during the course of, for example, another crime like robbery or burglary. The latter offense, described as the “predicate offense,” ostensibly supplies the requisite culpable mental state for the murder offense. Second degree murder requires that the accused cause the death knowingly. Second degree murder-heat of passion requires the same but involves the instance where the defendant acted in a heat of passion at the time of the killing. Heat of passion described the mental state of the accused at the time, such that he or she was provoked by the alleged victim to raise an irresistible passion in the accused. Reckless manslaughter requires that the accused act recklessly when the death of another occurred. Each of the mental states described above are defined under Colorado law. The same is true for the mitigating circumstance of heat of passion. Vehicular homicide requires causing the death of another while operating a motor vehicle and often includes the circumstance of driving under the influence.
Cases involving the foregoing charged offenses can also include specific affirmative defenses like self-defense, duress, choice of evils, insanity or other mental condition defenses. For example, with respect to self-defense, a defendant could have intentionally or knowingly wanted to cause the death of another but if it is in self-defense, the defendant is justified in taking such action and she is not guilty. Self-defense, like the charged offense, has elements that the prosecution must disprove in order to overcome the defense and prove guilt. Self-defense itself is a very complex area of the law. Cases involving murder and self-defense often raise highly complex and substantial legal and constitutional issues for review on appeal.
Similarly, the affirmative defense of insanity may apply. A defendant who commits a homicide offense but is insane at the time of the offense is not guilty and is committed to the State hospital for treatment. A defendant who, because he or she labors under some other mental condition or mental disability does not form the culpable mental state at the time of the offense is also not guilty. Each of these defenses involve complex and distinct legal requirements and nuances.
Mr. Heher has litigated on appeal numerous cases involving convictions for first degree murder-after deliberation, first degree-felony murder and the other related murder and homicide offenses discussed above. In many, the cases also involved the complex defenses noted above or issues of the incompetency of the accused to stand trial. These cases involve the most serious level of punishment including the death penalty or imprisonment of life without the possibility of parole. Mr. Heher has successfully appealed such cases. For example, on appeal from a death verdict, Mr. Heher overturned Colorado’s three judge death penalty sentencing provision in Woldt v. People, 64 P.3d 256 (Colo. 2003). In another instance, Mr. Heher successfully overturned his client’s conviction for first degree murder where the trial court erroneously considered and ruled upon his client’s competency to stand trial in People v. Presson, 315 P.3d 198 (Colo. App. 2013). These cases, as the foregoing indicate, involve the most serious levels of punishment and often involve very complex legal and constitutional issues. If you or a loved on have been convicted of a murder offense following trial, Mr. Heher will provide his expert assistance to navigate your case through the appellate process.
Learn more about Andrew Heher Law LLC and Mr. Heher’s unsurpassed experience and skills in homicide appeals by calling 720.660.6574 or contacting him at email@example.com.
Representative appellate cases in these areas include:
People v. Cockrell, — P.3d —- (Colo. App. 2017) (First degree murder-after deliberation)
People v. Newmiller, 338 P.3d 459 (Colo. App. 2014) (Appeal of denial of post-conviction claim of ineffective of assistance of counsel under Colorado Rule of Criminal Procedure 35(c) after conviction for second degree murder.)
People v. Presson, 315 P.3d 198 (Colo. App. 2013) (First degree murder-after deliberation conviction reversed; case involved the competency of the accused to stand trial.)
People v. Karpierz, 165 P.3d 753 (Colo. App. 2006) (Appeal of the denial of a post-conviction motion under Colorado Rule of Criminal Procedure 35(c) after conviction for first degree murder; case involved competency of the accused at the time of the guilty plea.)
Woldt v. People, 64 P.3d 256 (Colo. 2003) (Death sentence for first degree murder-after deliberation vacated and life sentence imposed.)
People v. Tally, 7 P.3d 172 (Colo. App. 1999) (First degree murder-after deliberation involving the affirmative defense of insanity and competency.)
People v. Jones, 990 P.2d 1098 (Colo. App. 1999) (First degree felony murder.)
People v. Perryman, 859 P.2d 263 (Colo. App. 1993) (Second degree murder.)
People v. Galimanis, 944 P.2d 626 (Colo. App. 1997) (First degree murder-after deliberation involving the affirmative defense of insanity.)
People v. Raibon, 843 P.2d 46 (Colo. App. 1992) (First degree murder-after deliberation.)