In the criminal justice system, all defendants are innocent until proven guilty. The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed a crime. Therefore, the burden of proof rests with the prosecution. Although defendants do not have to prove their innocence, they can present defenses to poke holes in the prosecution’s arguments and theories. This is true for all Philadelphia criminal cases, including murder and homicide cases. In this article, we will discuss defenses to Philadelphia criminal murder and homicide cases.
Alibi Defense to Murder and Homicide Cases in Philadelphia
A defense to a Philadelphia murder case is the alibi defense. This is when a defendant argues that he did not commit the crime because he was somewhere else and not at the scene of the crime. For instance, a defendant is accused of murder of a victim at a Philadelphia bar. The defendant presents an alibi defense and says that he was at home with his girlfriend watching television on the night of the incident. Therefore, he could not have been at the scene of the crime.
It is important to note that if the defendant presents an alibi defense, the burden of proof no longer rests with the prosecution. The burden now shifts to the defendant because the alibi defense is an affirmative defense, meaning that the defendant must prove the elements of the alibi defense.
The alibi witness would testify at trial to help prove that he/she was with the defendant at the time of the incident, and therefore, the defendant could not have committed the murder.
In addition, the alibi defense cannot be first presented at the time of trial. Pursuant to Title 234, Rules of Criminal Procedure, Rule 567, the defendant must give notice to the prosecution that an alibi defense will be presented. A notice must be filed with the court specifying the defendant’s intention to offer an alibi defense, and a copy of the notice must also be served on the prosecution. In addition, the notice needs to provide specific information as to defendant’s claims of where he was at the time of the accident and the names of witnesses the defendant intends to call to support his defense. Click here to see entire language of Rule 567.
Click here to continue to part 2 of this article which will discuss how videos also support the alibi defense.
(A) NOTICE BY DEFENDANT
A defendant who intends to offer the defense of alibi at trial shall file with the clerk of courts not later than the time required for filing the omnibus pretrial motion provided in Rule 579 a notice specifying an intention to offer an alibi defense, and shall serve a copy of the notice and a certificate of service on the attorney for the Commonwealth.
(1) The notice and a certificate of service shall be signed by the attorney for the defendant, or the defendant if unrepresented.
(2) The notice shall contain specific information as to the place or places where the defendant claims to have been at the time of the alleged offense and the names and addresses of the witnesses whom the defendant intends to call in support of the claim.
(B) FAILURE TO FILE NOTICE
(1) If the defendant fails to file and serve the notice of alibi as required by this rule, the court may exclude entirely any evidence offered by the defendant for the purpose of proving the defense, except testimony by the defendant, may grant a continuance to enable the Commonwealth to investigate such evidence, or may make such other order as the interests of justice require.
(2) If the defendant omits any witness from the notice of alibi, the court at trial may exclude the testimony of the omitted witness, may grant a continuance to enable the Commonwealth to investigate the witness, or may make such other order as the interests of justice require.
(C) RECIPROCAL NOTICE OF WITNESSES
Within 10 days after receipt of the defendant’s notice of defense of alibi, or within such other time as allowed by the court upon cause shown, the attorney for the Commonwealth shall file and serve upon defendant’s attorney, or the defendant if unrepresented, written notice of the names and addresses of all witnesses the attorney for the Commonwealth intends to call to disprove or discredit the defendant’s claim of alibi.
(D) FAILURE TO FILE RECIPROCAL NOTICE
(1) If the attorney for the Commonwealth fails to file and serve a list of its witnesses required by this rule, the court may exclude any evidence offered by the Commonwealth for the purpose of disproving the alibi defense, may grant a continuance to enable the defense to investigate such evidence, or may make such other order as the interests of justice require.
(2) If the attorney for the Commonwealth omits a witness from the list of its witnesses required by paragraph (C), the court at trial may exclude the testimony of the omitted witness, may grant a continuance to enable the defense to investigate the witness, or may make such other order as the interests of justice require.
(E) CONTINUING DUTY TO DISCLOSE
If prior to or during trial a party learns of an additional witness whose identity, if known, should have been included in the notice furnished under paragraphs (A) or (C), the party promptly shall notify the other party’s attorney, or if unrepresented, the party, of the existence and identity of such additional witness.
(F) FAILURE TO CALL WITNESSES
No adverse inference may be drawn against the defendant, nor may any comment be made concerning the defendant’s failure to call available alibi witnesses, when such witnesses have been prevented from testifying by reason of this rule, unless the defendant or the defendant’s attorney shall attempt to explain such failure to the jury.
A defendant may testify concerning an alibi notwithstanding that the defendant has not filed notice, but if the defendant has filed notice and testifies concerning his or her presence at the time of the offense at a place or time different from that specified in the notice, the defendant may be cross-examined concerning such notice.