A third-party culpability defense is like an alibi defense because, for both defenses, you are arguing that you specifically did not commit the crime. But for a third-party culpability defense, you are arguing that there is evidence to connect someone else (a third party) to the crime.
For an alibi defense, a jury must find you not guilty if there is reasonable doubt that you were present at the time and place the crime was committed. For a third-party culpability defense, a jury must find you not guilty if there is reasonable doubt that you committed the crime because the crime may have been committed by a third party.
SIDE NOTE: Depending on the evidence, you could argue both alibi and third-party culpability defenses.
These types of defenses are called “justification” defenses. You should argue a justification defense when you did cause the death of another person, but you were justified in doing so. The most common types of justification defenses are self-defense, defense of a third person, or crime prevention (for only specific crime listed in A.R.S. § 13-411(A)). If you argue that you were justified, then the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you did not act with justification.
SIDE NOTE: Self-defense cases tend to be some of the most defensible murder cases.
A person is guilty except insane if, at the time of the crime, a person suffered from a mental disorder that caused the person to not know the criminal act was wrong. It does not include disorders that result from voluntary intoxication or withdrawal from alcohol or drugs, character defects, psychosexual disorders, or impulse control disorders.
SIDE NOTE: This type of defense tends to be more difficult to prove because many people suffer from a mental health disorder or substance abuse issue, but they still know right from wrong.
Guilty except insane is an example of an “affirmative defense” under Arizona law. This means that the defendant has the burden to prove that the defendant is guilty except insane. For example, in other types of case, the prosecution has the burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did not act with justification or that the crime was not committed by someone else. But with the affirmative defense of insanity, the prosecutor does not have to prove that the defendant was not insane.
Furthermore, most affirmative defenses only require that the defendant prove the affirmative defense by a preponderance of the evidence. An insanity defense, however, must be proven by clear and convincing evidence. Clear and convincing evidence is a higher standard of proof than preponderance of the evidence (but lower than proof beyond a reasonable doubt).
Proof by a preponderance of the evidence means that a fact is more probably true than not true. Clear and convincing evidence means that a fact is highly probable.
The stakes are big when you are charged with homicide, regardless of the classification. You need to be sure that your attorney has the experience, skills and knowledge about the law to provide you with the best possible defense.
Arizona law gives each type of homicide classification its own definition and elements. But how the facts fit the law can be very particular. That is why it is important to have an experienced homicide attorney to ensure that the prosecution is not abusing its power in bringing a specific homicide charge against you.
At Feldman & Royle, we have represented clients charged with various homicide offenses throughout Arizona. We have obtained acquittals and not guilty verdicts based on various types of strategies and defenses. Our experience in defending homicide cases is substantial and our track record is well-known in the legal community. If you or a loved-one are facing a homicide charge, contact us to learn how our firm can help you. The initial consultation is free and confidential.