Murder Defense

At Mashni Law Criminal Defense, we understand the seismic impact a murder charge can carry in Kentucky. Such an accusation doesn't just threaten freedom; it puts an individual's entire future at stake, casting a long shadow over personal, professional, and social aspects of life. In Kentucky, being charged with murder is met with the utmost severity by the criminal justice system, often resulting in the harshest penalties if convicted, including life imprisonment or even the death penalty. The stakes couldn't be higher, and navigating the complexities of the legal process demands skilled, experienced, and determined legal representation. Our team at Mashni Law Criminal Defense is adept at dissecting the minutiae of murder cases, crafting a defense strategy tailored to the specifics of your case, always with the aim of preserving your freedom and rights.

Facing a murder charge in Kentucky is a battle that requires strong and sophisticated defense. Call our office or schedule a free case evaluation today, and allow Mashni Law Criminal Defense to take up your fight, leveraging our expertise and resources to seek the best possible outcome for you.

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Murder is defined in Kentucky Revised Statutes Section 507.020.

Crimes dealing with killing a person are divided into different classes of crime depending on the level of culpability on the part of the defendant. Murder is the most serious or highest class in this category and reckless homicide is the lowest class. All are felonies.
Murder occurs when the defendant intended to kill another person and that person, or a third person actually is killed. It is also murder to operate a motor vehicle under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to human life, thus wantonly engaging in conduct which creates a grave risk of death to another person and another person does die.


Reckless Homicide
Vehicular Homicide


The elements of a crime are the things that must be proven in order to be convicted of that crime. For murder, the prosecution must prove that the defendant had the required mental state, that is, he intended to cause the death of a person; that the person or a third person actually died, and that the death occurred as a result of the defendant’s actions.


Murder is a capital offense; therefore, the penalties are either death, life without possibility of probation or parole, life with possibility of probation or parole after 25 years, or 20-50 years’ incarceration. KRS §532.030.


There are two mental states recognized in Kentucky which raise a death caused by the defendant to the level of murder: intent and wantonness. Craft v. Commonwealth, 483 S.W.3d 106 (Ky. 1998). The defendant’s conduct both before and after the actual killing can be used by the prosecution as evidence to show his intention to murder. Wilson v. Com., 601 S.W.2d 280 (Ky. 1980). And when determining whether the killing is murder based on intent, the question to ask is whether the defendant intended to cause the death of the victim, not whether the defendant intended the act (e.g., firing the bullet) that wound up killing the victim. Holland v. Commonwealth, 466 S.W.3d 493 (Ky. 2015).
Wantonness can be established from the facts and circumstances surrounding the killing of the victim, such as if the defendant was drunk, speeding in his car, swerving through traffic and around police cars, and cased a fatal crash. Love v. Com., 55 S.W.3d 816 (Ky. 2001). To act wantonly, the defendant must have been aware of and consciously disregard a substantial and unjustifiable risk that death will follow from his actions. Holland v. Commonwealth, 466 S.W.3d 493 (Ky. 2015). For another example, firing from the hip in the direction of three persons who are standing in close proximity, killing one of the three, would indicate wantonness. Carwile v. Com., 656v S.W.2d 722 (Ky. 1983).
Felony murder also falls under the category of wantonness. Felony murder occurs when, during the commission of a felony, a person is killed. Engaging in a felony constitutes wanton conduct that creates a grave risk of death to another under circumstances manifesting an extreme indifference to human life. Bennet v. Com., 978 S.W.2d 322 (Ky. 1998).


A person is not guilty of murder if that person acted under the influence of extreme emotional disturbance and there was a reasonable explanation or excuse for the extreme emotional disturbance. Whether there was extreme emotional disturbance is determined from the viewpoint of a person in the defendant’s situation under the circumstances as the defendant believed them to be. If a person is not guilty of murder due to having acted under extreme emotion disturbance, then that person may still be guilty of a lesser included offense such as manslaughter. A good example of extreme emotional disturbance sufficient to reduce a murder charge to voluntary manslaughter would be what is called a triggering event, such as if the defendant killed his wife upon finding out she is adulterous. Spears v. Com., 3- S.W.3d 152 (Ky. 2000).
Actual belief, regardless of whether that belief is mistaken, in the need for self-protection is a defense to murder. Com. v. Hager 41 S.W.3d 828 (Ky. 2001). This is also known as self-defense. If the defendant’s belief was mistaken and self-defense was not necessary, then the defendant may still be convicted of manslaughter or another lesser included offense of murder. Ibid. If the belief that self-defense was necessary was accurate and not mistaken, then that is a complete defense to murder. Holcomb v. Com., 280 S.W.2d 499 (Ky. 1955).
Insanity is also a defense to murder, but this is a very high standard to meet. Under McClellan v. Com., the defendant must have a mental condition which results in the lack of capacity to appreciate the criminality of conduct or to conform conduct to the law; and any mental disease that does not cause this type of lack of capacity does not rise to the level of insanity necessary for an insanity defense. 715 S.W.2d 464 (Ky. 1986).
Although intoxication, e.g., by marijuana or alcohol, can be a defense to murder as well, the intoxication must be at a level that indicates that the defendant is not aware of his actions at the time he is performing them. Foster v. Com., 827 S.W.2d 670 (Ky. 1991). Additionally, because voluntary intoxication goes to the mental state requirement for murder, it will not be a defense to manslaughter. Springer v. Com., 998 S.W>2d 439 (Ky. 1999). Involuntary intoxication, such as being dosed with a date rape drug, would be a complete defense.

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