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Criminal defense tries to avoid first-degree murder conviction

A criminal homicide case represents perhaps the greatest challenge to Pennsylvania defense attorneys in terms of the absolute focus and commitment demanded to effectively defend the matter. Total immersion in the facts and attention to detail is required. Where guilt is overwhelming, or where the criminal charge may be reduced to a lesser offense, a criminal defense attorney's experience and track record of dealing with prosecution attorneys in the past may be a determinative factor in getting a favorable resolution.

Those factors may apply in the recent arrest on criminal homicide charges of a 48-year-old Erie man by the Pennsylvania State Police. The authorities accuse the man of murdering his 51-year-old wife and disposing of her body in Lake Erie when they were out on his commercial fishing boat. The man reported her missing on Sunday, June 11, saying that she must have fallen overboard.

However, Erie-Western Pennsylvania Port Authority surveillance videos show the couple leaving their boat slip on Saturday, June 10, the day before he reported her disappearance. Videos then show the boat returning the same day without her and then show him going out in the boat alone on June 11, the day he reported her disappearance, police say. In addition, the accused admitting under questioning to having an affair with another woman. The female friend told police that the accused had spent that Saturday night with her and discussed moving in with her, according to police.

The case thus presents a chain of what may be called overwhelming circumstantial evidence under Pennsylvania law. The lack of a victim's body complicates the prosecution's case, but the other evidence, including apparent lies by the accused, may indicate some degree of homicide. Criminal defense counsel will have to probe the man's story with him, and if the circumstantial evidence proves to be accurate and credible, they will together decide the best way to negotiate a plea bargain that may spare his life. Admitting to the killing may be prudent, and it leaves open the possibility of a revised factual account that could reduce the outcome to less than first-degree murder.

Source: People, "Husband Allegedly Kills Wife, Claims She Fell Overboard", KC Baker, June 20, 2017

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