In late March of 2019, a man was arrested after being accused of breaking into a mobile home and shooting another man multiple times. He now faces charges of first-degree murder.


First-degree murder is taken extremely seriously in Oklahoma. Viewed by the justice system as the worst crime a person could commit, it carries the harshest penalties in the state. Those charged of first-degree murder may feel helpless, but there are defenses available that can provide hope.


First-Degree Murder in Oklahoma


First-degree murder is covered under the Oklahoma statute Title 21 O.S. Section 701.7. Malice aforethought murder, felony murder, and child abuse murder are the most common types of first-degree murder outlined in the statute.


Malice aforethought murder occurs when a person with malice aforethought kills another person. This is known as premeditated murder in many other states. Malice aforethought refers to the fact that someone intended and planned to kill someone before doing so. The statute provides no time limit for the malice aforethought to take place. A person could have decided seconds before killing someone that they were going to do so, and malice aforethought would apply.


Felony murder does not simply mean that the act committed was a felony; all first-degree murder charges are considered felonies. However, the crime of felony murder occurs when a death results from another felony crime. For example, if someone robs a convenience store and the clerk at the store dies as a result, this is considered a felony murder. Felony murder does not require intent. Even when someone has no intention of hurting anyone, if someone dies during the course of another felonious act, felony murder charges will apply.


Child abuse murder occurs when a child dies as a result of child abuse. Shaken baby cases are often charged as child abuse murder. 


Punishment for First-Degree Murder in Oklahoma


The punishments for first-degree murder are not only some of the harshest in Oklahoma, but in the entire country. The minimum sentence is life, which requires the defendant to serve at least 38 years in state prison before they are eligible for parole. Life without parole is another possible sentence. This sentencing requires the defendant to spend the rest of their life in prison.


Lastly, Oklahoma remains a state that practices the death penalty. In the most extreme cases, the sentence for first-degree murder is death.


Defenses to First-Degree Murder


While it may not seem like it at the time of arrest, there are possible defenses to first-degree murder.


Self-defense is commonly used in first-degree murder cases. If one person kills another person in order to protect themselves from great bodily harm, self-defense may apply.


It’s also possible to apply this defense to the defense of another person. If someone killed another person because they thought another person was in danger of great bodily harm, this is also sometimes used as a defense. In either type of defense, the defendant must have believed at the time that the use of deadly force was necessary and that they had no other defense.


In some first-degree murder charges, the prosecution is willing to reduce the charges. They must prove during trial that the defendant committed the act ‘beyond a reasonable doubt,’ and this is sometimes difficult. When they feel as though they don’t have the evidence to do so, they may reduce the charges. In these cases, the defendant may still face prison, but will have a chance to get out earlier.


Those Facing Charges Need Experienced Oklahoma Criminal Defense Lawyers


First-degree murder is considered one of the worst crimes a person could commit in Oklahoma. As such, it carries some of the most severe punishments. Anyone facing charges needs a criminal defense lawyer in Oklahoma City who has the experience to give those accused their best chance at retaining their freedom.


If you have been charged with first-degree murder or any other serious crime, call Banks, Gillett, Gillett, PLLC today at (405) 607-4800. We are criminal defense attorneys who bring our years of experience to every case. We will fight for your rights and build a solid defense to help you beat the charges. Call us today or fill out our online form for your free consultation to learn more about how we can help you.