Springfield Homicide Lawyer
Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney
Being charged with any type of crime is an unfortunate matter, but there is nothing as serious as being accused of causing someone’s death. Because a homicide results in the death of one or more people, the consequences of a conviction are harsher than any other crime. The penalties could include many long years in prison, or even a life sentence.
Since there is so much at stake, it is absolutely critical that you have an experienced lawyer on your side who understands scientific and forensic evidence, and who will hold the State to its burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. You need attorney Marcus Schantz who has tried and won murder cases in front of juries and judges and who is also a former member of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and has an educational scientific background, including research with DNA and RNA.
Dedicated Legal Counsel in Fighting Homicide Charges
Homicide or murder in the state of Illinois is defined as causing without legal justification the death of someone, whether intentionally or accidentally.
Illinois law codifies four common homicide crimes.
- First-degree murder – is defined as intentionally killing another person, or engaging in conduct, which knowingly creates a strong possibility of death or great bodily harm. First-degree murder is punishable from 20 to 60 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections served at 100% with no possibility for good-time credit.
- Several years or even a sentence of natural life may be added to the sentence if certain aggravating factors are present, such as the victim being a police officer, firefighter, under the age of 12 or over the age of 60. An additional 25 years may be added if a firearm caused the death. There are many other aggravating factors related to homicide cases.
- Second-degree murder – is first-degree murder, but with mitigating factors present, such as acting under sudden and intense passion that was caused by the victim. A traditional example might be a husband who finds his wife in bed with another man and kills one or both of them.
- Second-Degree murder in self-defense cases - for example, a defendant is charged with First-Degree Murder but asserts he was acting in self-defense. The trier of fact (judge or jury) at trial must decide two issues related to this defense. First, whether the defendant was actually defending himself, his home or others. And second, whether the use of self-defense reasonable. Should yes be the answer to both inquiries the defendant is found not guilty of First-Degree Murder. If, however, the trier of fact decides the defendant was defending himself, but the use of force was unreasonable, a Second-Degree Murder conviction is probable. The maximum sentence for Second-degree murder is 20 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections served at 50%.
Previous Case Example
A former client shot and killed another man at Altgeld Gardens in Chicago in the summer of 2012. The client was jumped and beaten by a much larger man who returned two hours later, wanting to fight some more. The client saw the man and went inside his home, grabbed a pistol and went back outside where he confronted his attacker and eventually shot and killed him. Surveillance video captured the entire event. The jury believed the client was acting in self-defense but did not believe the client’s use of force was reasonable. The client was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 14 years in IDOC at 50%.
Contact Marcus now at (217) 572-1559 so he can begin building a strong case for your defense.
Involuntary manslaughter occurs when someone is killed but there was no intent to cause the death. An example could be picking up a firearm that accidentally discharges and kills someone. Involuntary manslaughter is a Class 3 felony, but the felony class can be raised if certain aggravating facts are proven.
Reckless homicide is causing the death of another without intent while operating a motor vehicle. Reckless homicide is also a Class 3 felony but can be more serious if, for instance, the driver was driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Defending Murder Cases
There is no margin for error in defending homicide cases. Depending on the type of evidence in the case, there could be motions to suppress evidence, identification or a post-arrest statement made by the defendant. Most importantly, an experienced murder attorney like Marcus Schantz must investigate the case as if he were a detective.
Errors are made by police during homicide investigations. They can focus too much on a suspect’s criminal history or once they think they knew who the murderer was, evidence concerning other suspects is ignored.
There are also cases involving startling police misconduct. This is one reason why an intensive investigation is necessary to defend murder cases.
Previous Case Example
One summer night in 2009 in the southside Chicago neighborhood of Gage Park, a young man was shot in the head after refusing to give his car to a would-be car jacker. His girlfriend was riding in the passenger seat and his best friend in the backseat behind the girl friend. After the driver was shot in the head, the car continued to move forward until it crashed into a tree and eventually caught on fire. The passengers quickly exited the car and hid in bushes until emergency services arrived. Several people, including the aunt of my client, called 911 to report the gunshot and a car on fire.
A loose description of the offender was given to the police: a black man with a dark ball cap and hoodie. Police began knocking on doors and shining flashlights through windows. They saw on the floor of a house located close to the corner where the shooting occurred a dark hoodie and ball cap. The police knocked on the door but there was no answer. Then the owner, who was my client’s aunt, returned. She was asked if there was anyone inside the house, and she told them only her nephew who was in the back sleeping. Police entered the house and arrested her nephew who became my client.
Police conducted a show-up on the scene, which means both passengers were separately allowed to look at him. He was identified as possibly being the shooter. At the police stations both passengers met with detectives and an assistant state’s attorney. Their written statements were taken. The girlfriend stated she hadn’t gotten a good look at the offender. The passenger gave a description that matched my client. There was no gun found. No spent shell casings. In fact, other than the dark hoodie and cap, there was no evidence suggesting my client’s guilt.
I met with my client in the Cook County Jail, and immediately something felt off. My impression was that he hadn’t killed anyone nor would he. He explained that he had been playing basketball at a court very near his aunt’s house. He was very tired after playing for many hours and went to his aunt’s house to sleep. There was nothing unusual about him spending a night at her house. The next thing he knew he woke to several police officers pointing their sidearms at him.
Throughout my handling of this case, I learned very troubling facts. First was the grand jury testimony. The girlfriend who said in her statement that she hadn’t really seen the offender testified before the grand jury that she had seen him and provided a description that matched my client and the clothes police found in his aunt’s house when he was arrested. Even stranger was that the backseat passenger who said he had seen the offender did not testify. After reviewing the grand jury material, I knew something was really wrong.
I hired an ex-Chicago homicide detective to do field investigation work. I wanted him to interview both passengers who were in the car that night. I told him I suspected police misconduct, but he was doubtful. Then I found a copy of a post-it note given to me in discovery that read the backseat passenger wouldn’t ‘lock in’ and was not called as a grand jury witness. I believed then and still believe today that the photocopy of that post-it note was given to me by accident.
My investigator spent months attempting to locate the backseat passenger and eventually two weeks before the trial recorded an interview with him somewhere in northwest Indiana. What he said was shocking. They had the three of them before the incident been drinking at a party for several hours. He was extremely drunk when the shooting happened and saw nothing. The detectives told him to pick my client out of a line-up, telling him he had a background with a gun charge, and if it walks like a duck, it’s a duck. He also said the girlfriend had actually seen the shooter and described him as a big black guy who weighed up to 300 pounds and had a Mohawk---a very specific identification. She hadn’t told the police this because she was in fear of being killed if she did.
The first-chair prosecutor in that case was a man with whom I had a good relationship. His integrity was unimpeachable, and his was very reasonably minded. I gave him a disc containing that interview. I told him he had some serious problems and that I was going to expose embarrassing, criminal police misconduct at trial.
The trial was to begin on a Monday morning. The prosecutor called me on the evening of the Friday before and told me not to waste my time over the weekend preparing for trial because he was going to dismiss the case, which he did.
My client spent an entire year in jail because of this and received no recourse. I referred him to some civil rights’ attorneys who all declined to accept his case because they felt it would be difficult to prove misconduct by the detective. I thought briefly about going to the media with this story but chose not to. Nothing would have changed, and it wouldn’t have even been a big story because police misconduct in Chicago was not unusual.
As it turned out, there was a very big black man with a Mohawk who lived in the neighborhood where the shooting occurred, and was known as a street criminal.
As bad as I felt for my client, I also felt bad for the young murdered man’s parents. They came to every court date when my client’s case was up, always looking at me with menacing eyes. I wonder what they were told when the case was dismissed. They believed the police who told them my client killed their son. I knew all along that was nonsense and I just had to find evidence to prove it.
Contact Marcus at (217) 572-1559 to immediately set up a free consultation!