Being charged with murder can paralyze even the strongest individual with fear. There is no description that adequately characterizes how unnerving the process can be for those charged with society’s most serious crime. Finding an attorney with the passion, skills, and experience to defend a loved one is the first task of many, and arguably the most important. This lawyer will not only defend the accused, but assemble a team of investigators and forensic experts to identify and interview witnesses, examine the government’s evidence, assess and memorialize the crime scene, and carefully assemble the defense. Since the days, even hours, following the alleged homicide or the allegations may prove critical to the defense, it may be imperative to select an attorney in the very earliest stages of the investigation or case.
Because the stakes are so high, only experienced trial judges are assigned to preside over murder trials. And these judges go to extraordinary lengths to ensure the accused a fair trial. Jurors, likewise concerned with returning a just verdict, are remarkably attentive. For the criminal defense lawyer undaunted by the enormity of the stakes, the circumstances have never been so promising for obtaining an acquittal for his client.
To whom can you entrust your life?
Not every criminal defense lawyer is capable of representing an individual accused of first-degree murder. Homicide prosecutors are tough, shrewd, experienced, and accustomed to the high-pressure atmosphere of a murder trial. The lawyer must possess these same qualities – and more. Attorney Kevin J. Mahoney has successfully defended numerous individuals of serious felonies, including 1stdegree murder. He thrives in a high-pressure environment, and is comfortable and confident in handling the media. In short, he is battle tested.
Using Forensic Evidence to Exonerate Clients
Increasingly, a prosecutor relies on forensic evidence to seal his victory. At trial, he may call experts in forensic disciplines ranging from DNA analysis, toxicology, pharmacology, crime scene reconstruction, fingerprint analysis, blood splatter analysis, ballistics, bodily fluid analysis, botanical to pathology. Now, more than ever, a criminal defense lawyer is called upon to have a working, if not intimate, knowledge of the high tech forensic evidence a prosecutor might use against his client. To the untrained eye, what might appear to be damning scientific evidence, may, in fact, demonstrate the client’s innocence or, at least, not be that damning after all. Appreciating the subtle differences between compelling and exonerating forensic evidence can save a client from the abyss.
For example, in Commonwealth vs. Christina Martin, the toxicology evidence appeared to provide the District Attorney’s Office with nearly irrefutable proof that someone had poisoned her boyfriend. Confused and intimidated by the toxicology evidence, Ms. Martin’s original lawyer abandoned any hope of challenging this “overwhelming” forensic evidence and, instead, fingered Ms. Martin’s daughter as the murderer. In short, he conceded that the boyfriend had been murdered. Ms. Martin was convicted of 1st degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. After thoroughly educating himself on the toxicology tests performed on the deceased, Kevin Mahoney realized that the District Attorney’s Office had withheld additional toxicology evidence from the defense. After forcing the District Attorney’s Office to come clean, Mahoney used the toxicology evidence to free Ms. Martin.
Winning Murder Trials With Effective Cross-Examination
In his best selling book, Relentless Criminal Cross-Examination (2008), Mahoney devotes entire chapters to teaching lawyers how to cross-examine forensic experts, eye-witnesses, snitches, and detectives – especially those detectives who elicited a statement from the defendant. While experience, aggression, and communication skills are important assets for every criminal defense lawyer, tactical, disciplined, creative and thorough cross-examination of prosecution witnesses wins trials. Mahoney has earned a nationwide reputation as a consummate cross-examiner. And spending the time to really get to know his client, his particular circumstances, and the details of the alleged encounter, together with innovative investigative techniques and solid preparation, are the foundation of his most successful cross-examinations.
Helping the Client Overcome Fear
Prosecutors habitually charge individuals with first-degree murder when the allegations, at most, support a charge of manslaughter or, at worst, no charge at all where the accused killed the “victim” in self-defense. When a prosecutor has a weak case, he knows his most powerful, insidious and persuasive “evidence” is fear. Fear, the prosecutor believes, will drive the decision-making, compelling the accused’s lawyer to offer a plea of guilty to 2nd degree murder. In most cases, the prosecutor need only indict and wait. Fear, while real and potentially overpowering, should not deprive the accused – particularly the innocent – of his right to a defense.
A battle tested murder defense lawyer knows his responsibility to the client extends beyond the courtroom; he has an obligation to keep his client informed, to advise him honestly, and to try to him manage and overcome his fears while the case works its way through the system. Helping the client maintain his emotional balance before and during the trial is essential to winning the case. After all, at the defense table sit only the lawyer and client. When a witness blurts out something unexpected, and that happens at nearly every trial, it is to the client that the lawyer must turn for clarification. An emotionally stable, well-informed, and engaged client is often a lawyer’s greatest asset at trial.
Contact a Massachusetts Lawyer
If you or a loved one is accused of murder, call us at 617-492-0055 or contact us using our online contact form to arrange a free in-office consultation with Attorney Mahoney. He will treat you with courtesy, listen to you carefully, and advise you honestly.
Commonwealth vs. Martin, 427 Mass. 816 (1998)
1st Degree Murder – conviction overturned. Attorney Mahoney first persuaded a Superior Court judge to grant Ms. Martin a new trial by demonstrating that District Attorney’s Office withheld exculpatory toxicology evidence and that defendant’s trial attorney had provided ineffective assistance of counsel by failing to challenge the cause-of-death evidence. The District Attorney’s Office appealed. Mahoney convinced the Supreme Judicial Court to uphold the Superior Court’s order granting Ms. Martin a new trial. A few months later, Ms. Martin was free.
Commonwealth vs. M.L., Cambridge Superior Court
1st Degree Murder — Not Guilty
Possession of Firearm — Not Guilty
The still burning remains of an unidentified victim were discovered on a remote road in Fitchburg forest, not far from the client’s parents’ home. The victim had been shot once in the head and twice in the chest, before being dumped on the snow covered road, drenched with gasoline and set ablaze. After identifying the victim, the police quickly settled on the home of an alleged accomplice as the likely murder scene. State Police Detectives conducting surveillance on the home observed individuals carrying items from the home and stashing them in cars parked in the driveway. The State Police decided to secure the residence. Bursting through the front door, Troopers swiftly tackled an alleged accomplice and the Defendant to the floor, got them to their feet and hustled them out the door. Beginning at approximately midnight, two detectives relentlessly interrogated the Defendant. For the first 5 hours of the interrogation, the Defendant maintained that the alleged accomplice and his girlfriend had shot and killed the victim. According to the Defendant, they wrapped the body in saran wrap, drove to Fitchburg, doused the body with gasoline, and set it on fire. At 05:00 a.m., the Defendant exhausted and dope sick, confessed to executing the victim with a 9mm handgun provided by the alleged accomplice. Arguing that the police had interfered with the Defendant’s right to access a telephone, Mahoney persuaded a Superior Court judge to suppress the most damaging portion of his confession.
Commonwealth vs. D.B., Suffolk Superior Court (2013)
Charge: 2nd Degree Murder
Plea: Manslaughter, 8 years to 8 years-and-a-day
As the client stood across the street from his home, he observed an unknown individual enter his home, a triple-decker in Chelsea. The client ran across the street, and confronted the individual as he was making his way to the 2nd floor. The two began to argue and fight. As the client forced the individual from his home, they both stumbled down the front outside stairs. Two eyewitnesses watched the client attack and beat the individual as he was on the sidewalk and then retrieve a knife from his sweatshirt and stabbed the victim in the chest. The knife pierced his heart. The victim was declared dead upon reaching the hospital.
Kevin J. Mahoney is a criminal defense attorney, author of Relentless Criminal Cross-Examination, and on-air legal analyst.