Philadelphia criminal defense cases, such as homicide cases, do not require defendants to prove they are innocent of the alleged crimes. Rather, the burden of proof rests on the prosecution. The prosecution has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed a crime.
In addition, defendants do not have to take the stand to testify pursuant to the Fifth Amendment, which provides:
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
Therefore, the 5th Amendment requires the prosecution to prove guilt without calling the defendant to testify as a witness.
There are situations where defendants may want to testify. One of those situations is a homicide criminal trial where the defendant presents the defense of self-defense.
Self-Defense in Philadelphia Criminal Murder & Homicide Cases
Pursuant to Pennsylvania law, an individual can use force to protect themselves. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. §505(a) provides:
Use of force justifiable for protection of the person.–The use of force upon or toward another person is justifiable when the actor believes that such force is immediately necessary for the purpose of protecting himself against the use of unlawful force by such other person on the present occasion.
However, when self-defense is presented by the defendant, the burden of proof no longer rests with the prosecution. The burden of proof shifts to the defendant, who has to prove that his/her actions were justified. Sometimes, the defendant may testify to help prove that the killing of the victim was justified.
For instance, a defendant is on trial for murder of her boyfriend in Philadelphia. The defendant’s attorney presents the affirmative defense of self-defense. The defendant takes the stand and tells the jury about the years of abuse she endured. The defendant and her boyfriend have a son together. She was abused by her boyfriend for many years. She had tried to leave her boyfriend on multiple occasions, but was unsuccessful because the boyfriend threatened to hurt their son. She stayed with her boyfriend in order to protect their son. The defendant had been to the hospital on multiple occasions after she was physically abused by her boyfriend. On the night of the incident, she tried to leave again with their son. The boyfriend was drunk and would not let her leave. He also got a gun and threatened to kill her. A struggle ensued and the defendant got a hold of the gun. As the boyfriend lunged toward her, she fired the gun which killed the boyfriend. Thus, she was justified to use deadly force because she was under the reasonable belief that shooting the gun was necessary to prevent serious injury or death to herself.
FREE Consultations from a Philadelphia Homicide and Murder Charge Criminal Lawyer
David Nenner, Esq. is an experienced Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer who has handled countless murder and homicide cases. Mr. Nenner has been rated as one of the top Philadelphia criminal defense lawyers. He was recently featured in Philly Daily News for helping to free his client who spent 17 months in jail for a murder he did not commit. Mr. Nenner offers FREE consultations. 215.564.0644
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