Criminal Defense Lawyers Serving Plymouth County, Bristol County, Norfolk County MA
Massachusetts state law defines first-degree murder as a homicide committed with:
- Deliberately premeditated malice;
- With “extreme atrocity or cruelty;” or
- In the commission of any crime punishable with life imprisonment (such as rape or armed robbery.)
Deliberately Premeditated Malice
In practice, these clauses can be interpreted in a wide variety of ways. It’s possible to incur a charge of “deliberately premeditated malice” if you reflected on the murder for only a split-second beforehand; it’s not necessary (as you often see depicted on TV shows) to have engaged in weeks of detailed planning.
Extreme Atrocity and Cruelty
The definition of “extreme atrocity and cruelty” is often left up to a judge or jury; it can mean everything from stabbing a victim multiple times to beating him with a blunt instrument.
The third cause of action requires that the murder occurred in the course of a rape, armed robbery or assault; this type of homicide is usually referred to as “felony murder.” (It’s also applicable in cases of arson, whether or not the suspect knew beforehand that anyone was in the house or building.)
First-degree murder is the most serious type of homicide, with the most severe consequences for the perpetrator. Fortunately, the state of Massachusetts does not have the death penalty, but a conviction on first-degree murder charges requires a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of a parole.
Experienced First-Degree Murder Defense Trial Lawyers
When the team at The Law Offices of Gerald J. Noonan is unable to get an acquittal on first-degree murder charges, they may be able to “plea down” a first-degree murder charge to second-degree murder or even manslaughter, which carry shorter prison sentences and the possibility of parole.
Our attorneys want to hear your side of the story. If we agree to take your case, we will work hard to build a strong defense to the prosecutor. In Massachusetts, whenever there is severe injury to someone else, or when someone is killed, prosecutors will aggressively seek to prove your guilt.