Second Degree Murder: One of the Big Three Homicide Charges in Michigan

In the state of Michigan, three murder charges are the most severe in our state: First Degree Murder, Second Degree Murder, and Felony Murder. Today, we will discuss the crime of Second Degree Murder in the state of Michigan. iStock_000000182036XSmall-300x224

When a prosecutor brings a charge of Second Degree Murder, they have the burden of proving the following elements:

1. The victim was killed during the act.
2. The Defendant caused death.
3. The Defendant had the intent to commit the act.
4. There is no justification for the end.

While this is one of the most severe charges in the state of Michigan, the prosecution does not have to prove premeditation or deliberation. This makes this charge an easier hurdle for the state than First Degree Murder or Felony Murder. To discuss this crime in greater detail, we spoke to 3 of the top criminal defense lawyers in the state of Michigan to have a better understanding of the charge.

Scott Grabel is the founder of Grabel and Associates and runs the top criminal defense firm in the state of Michigan. Grabel’s team has successfully defended this charge in the past and have a great deal of knowledge on the subject matter. When asked about Second Degree Murder, Grabel stated, “While it may sound strange, sometimes it’s an easier defense when a Defendant is charged with first-degree murder because the attorney can zone in on the premeditation and deliberation elements. With that said, the intent factor is where the defense counsel needs to focus their attention. Several factors come into play when at a jury trial and with a charge of Second Degree Murder, much of the work occurs in the pre-trial phase. This is not a charge where an attorney can prepare on the fly. The defense attorney needs to prepare from day one to protect the constitutional rights of their client.”

William Amadeo is a partner at the firm McManus and Amadeo in Ann Arbor, Michigan and a Senior Associate for Grabel and Associates. Amadeo has developed a reputation as one of the top criminal defense lawyers in Washtenaw, Wayne and Ingham County. When asked about the charge of Second Degree Murder, Amadeo replied, “The way the charge is viewed in Washtenaw as opposed to Wayne or Ingham is extremely different. As Scott Grabel always taught me, sometimes criminal law is like purchasing real estate, and the theme of location is essential to how this crime is charged. In Wayne County, the prosecution generally believes there is nothing justified with shooting while Washtenaw or Ingham make plea bargains easier. In Wayne, expect to go to trial, even if your client is innocent, in Washtenaw or Ingham, motion writing is taken more seriously with the charge of Second Degree Murder.”

Joe Brugnoli is a Senior Associate for Grabel and Associates and has developed a reputation as one of the top criminal defense lawyers in Kent County. When asked about Second Degree Murder, Brugnoli stated, “Voir Dire is exceptionally critical with this charge. Many times, when the jury hears that Second Degree Murder is the charge, you start in an uphill battle. A good opening statement is essential to countering the elements and punching holes in the prosecutor’s case. Without a good opening statement and solid voir dire, your client will face serious consequences. This is why our firm spends a large amount of practice time on both issues.

While Second Degree Murder is a serious charge, the tactic of building the character of your client and connecting with the jury gives the defendant a fighting chance to fend off the charge. The skill level of the attorney on a Second Degree Murder charge is more essential than most other costs in the state of Michigan.