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New York City Murder Defense Lawyer

Manhattan Murder Defense Lawyer

Criminal Attorney for Homicide and Manslaughter Charges in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens

Under New York state law, murder is the most serious form of homicide. The police and prosecuting attorneys give murders top priority and will aggressively investigate and arrest suspects. Simply being related to a victim or being near the scene of a murder can put you under a law enforcement microscope. To best protect your rights and freedom, you will not go wrong by following the oft-heard advice, "Ask for an attorney and say nothing without your attorney present."

About 300 murders occur in New York City each year, which means that most criminal defense attorneys do not handle murder cases very often, if ever. When facing a charge as serious as murder, you need a highly experienced attorney.

The attorneys of Watford Jackson, PLLC have over 45 years of combined experience in the criminal courts of New York City. Attorneys Joey Jackson and Gregory J. Watford have delivered hundreds of positive outcomes for their clients and are highly respected among their criminal law colleagues in one of the nation's busiest and most sophisticated criminal justice systems. You can rely on Watford Jackson to exhaustively research and prepare a defense for you that will hold up against the most relentless murder prosecution. We will stand fast and be an aggressive advocate for you throughout the difficult journey of a murder case.

Understanding New York Laws on Murder

Murder falls into the most serious category of crimes under New York law, class A-1. The most severe forms of murder carry a sentence of life without parole. Lesser forms of class A-1 murder carry an indeterminate prison sentence with a minimum term, meaning that a person is essentially sentenced to life in prison but can seek parole after serving the minimum number of years. The minimum term is defined by statute with some discretion left to the judge. These are high-stakes cases requiring the most meticulous and tenacious defense.

The law breaks these cases into three categories, and even attempted murder carries stiff penalties.

First-Degree Murder in New York

Murder in the First Degree has three defining factors (NYPL section 125.27). The accused must be over age 18; must have acted with intent to kill someone, thereby causing that person's or another person's death; and there must be a special circumstance such as:

  • The intended victim was an on-duty police or corrections officer, judge or court officer, firefighter, or medical first responder.
  • The killing was committed for hire, to prevent testimony by or to retaliate against a crime witness, as part of torture, as part of a pattern of multiple killings, or as part of an act of terrorism.
  • The killing occurred during the commission of another felony crime (i.e., "felony murder").

Prison sentence: Minimum of 20 to 25 years. Maximum of life without parole.

Attempted Murder in the First Degree carries a minimum prison sentence of 15–25 years, except it will be 20–40 years if the intended victim was in the "on-duty public servant" category.

Aggravated Murder in New York

The law defining Aggravated Murder (NYPL section 125.26) allows prosecutors to seek stiffer sentences in two specific types of first-degree murder cases, where the defendant was over 18 years old at the time of the crime and:

  • The intended victim was an on-duty police or corrections officer, judge or court officer, firefighter, or medical first responder.
  • The intended victim was under age 14 and the victim was tortured prior to death.

Prison sentence: Life without parole.

Attempted Aggravated Murder carries a minimum prison sentence of 20–40 years.

Second-Degree Murder in New York

Murder in the Second Degree includes intentional killings that do not fall into the special categories defined in first-degree and aggravated murder, as well as deaths resulting from extremely reckless behavior. A person is guilty of murder in the second degree under New York law (NYPL section 125.25) when:

  1. With the intent to kill someone, they cause the death of that person or another person.
  2. Showing a depraved indifference to human life, they recklessly engage in conduct which causes a death.
  3. In the course of certain felony crimes, they cause the death of a person other than another participant in the crime.
  4. Being at least 18 years of age, and showing a depraved indifference to human life, they recklessly engage in conduct that causes the death of a child under 11 years old.
  5. Being at least 18 years of age, they cause the death of a person under 14 years old in the course of committing rape or a related sex crime.

Prison sentence: Minimum of 15 to 25 years. The exception is #5 above, for which the statutory sentence is life without parole.

Attempted Second-Degree Murder is the only murder charge that is class B felony, which carries a fixed prison sentence of 1 to 25 years.

Affirmative Defenses Against Murder Charges in New York

In addition to the usual approaches to any criminal defense strategy, New York law specifically permits three affirmative defenses to murder charges:

  • The defendant acted under extreme emotional distress for which there was a reasonable explanation or excuse. The defendant could still be convicted of manslaughter in the first degree or any lesser crime.
  • The defendant acted to aid another person to commit suicide. The defendant could still be convicted of manslaughter in the second degree or any lesser crime.
  • In the case of second degree murder committed during the course of certain felonies involving multiple participants, the accused may claim the defense that he or she did not commit or aid in the commission of the homicide, and was not armed with a deadly weapon, and had no reasonable ground to believe that any other participant was armed or intended to engage in conduct that could result in serious physical injury or death.

Murder Charges Demand the Most Experienced Criminal Defense Attorneys

Contact the attorneys of Watford Jackson in our Manhattan office at 855-WAT-JACK or 855-928-5225. We handle cases in Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan, Queens, Nassau County, Rockland County, Suffolk County, and Westchester County.


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101 Avenue of the Americas, 9th Floor
New York, NY 10013

Call Us855-928-5225

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