Are There Defenses to Murder?

Defenses to MurderThere are few crimes that have more serious consequences, both judicial and non-judicial, than murder. Just being accused of murder, even if you have not been convicted, can forever change your life. Although the mere accusation may negatively impact your career and your family life, keep in mind that being accused is a far cry from being convicted. In fact, if you have been accused of murder in the State of Tennessee it is imperative that you remember that there are a number of viable defenses to murder. Only an experienced Tennessee criminal defense attorney can evaluate the facts and circumstances of your case to determine which, if any, of the defenses might apply in your case; however, it may help in the meantime to have a broad understanding of the most common defenses to murder.

First, it is important to know what you have actually been charged with because there are degrees of “murder.” First degree murder is the most serious. In most states, including Tennessee, first degree murder involves the killing of another with premeditation and/or during the commission of certain serious felonies. Second degree murder is often referred to as “heat of passion” because it involves the killing of another but without premeditation. Instead, second degree murder occurs in the heat of the moment, often caused by heightened emotions. For example, if someone finds his/her spouse in bed with another man/woman and then kills them it would be charged as second degree murder because there was no plan to commit murder.

Some of the most common defenses to a charge of murder include:


  • ·I didn’t do it – this defense simply alleges that you did not kill the victim. Obviously, this defense only works when the state’s case is weak on evidence pointing to you as the perpetrator.
  • ·Mistaken identity – this is just a specific version of “I didn’t do it.” Witnesses often make erroneous identifications when they are nervous or when they did not really get a good look at the perpetrator. If you were identified through a line-up or photo array you may be able to claim mistaken identity.
  • ·Self-defense – all states allow some form of self-defense. Some states also allow you to use deadly force to protect others or even property. If the victim was threatening you with imminent bodily harm you may be able to claim self-defense.
  • ·Accident – this defense admits that you killed the victim but alleges that it was an accident. If a firearm discharged accidently while you were cleaning it, for example.
  • ·Insanity – all states also have some form of an insanity defense. This defense basically admits you killed the victim but alleges that you were not responsible for your actions at the time by reason of insanity.

The key to any successful defense is to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible after your arrest, or even while the investigation is still ongoing, to ensure that your rights are protected. Consult with the experienced Tennessee criminal defense attorneys at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.


Dinah Michael