Defending Murder and Manslaughter Cases in Kentucky

Episode 3:  Louisville criminal defense attorney Tim Denison discusses his experience defending against murder and manslaughter charges in Kentucky.  The conversation covers preparing emotionally and the importance of having the resources to handle the case.

Tim never asks a client if he/she did it.  The story and related-evidence is critical.  Inconsistencies are extremely important to the case.  A story-line that explains the defendant’s activities needs to be formulated.  Tim forces the prosecution to prove its case based on facts, not assumptions.

The Rules of Evidence are extremely important.  It may help to suppress certain items from the trial.  Tim makes a judgement as to which pieces of evidence should be attacked.  He also works to introduce exculpatory evidence to support the defendant’s story and ultimate innocence.

A murder trial may take 6 months to 2-3 years before the case gets to trial.  Depending on the charges, the defendant will usually be incarcerated.

Criminal cases are brought “in the name of the State” against the individual.  It’s possible for a victim’s family to bring a civil case against the defendant (i.e. wrongful death).  If the defendant is acquitted, it may be their only recourse.  The standard of proof in a civil case is a substantially lower bar to clear.  For instance, while OJ Simpson wasn’t found guilty of the criminal charges, he was ultimately sued and lost in civil court.

Sentencing for Murder and Manslaughter

The prosecution generally starts with what they think they can prove.  This is often why some cases are charged as a lesser crime.

Murder is a Class A felony.  The sentence is 20 years to life.  Intent is a key element, which must be proven.  Manslaughter in the 1st degree, a Class B felony, carries a sentence of 10-20 years (i.e. a crime of passion or committed in the heat of the moment).  Manslaughter in the 2nd degree (a Class C felony eligible for 5-10 years) deals with recklessness or wanton acts, without the intent to commit a homicide.  Reckless homicide is a Class D felony with a sentence of 1-5 years.

Appeals for Murder Charges

If the sentence is 20 years or more, there is a direct appeal to the KY Supreme Court.  Lower sentences are generally handled in the Court of Appeals.  Appeals are generally filed to prove in good faith that a deficiency of evidence, wrong application of the law and other factors.

Capital Murder vs. Murder

In Kentucky, certain facts will influence the prosecution’s decision to prosecute the case as a capital offense.  Heinous acts and other elements may be the types of evidence considered.  Capital murder is death-penalty eligible.  Adults are eligible for the death-penalty.  Minors can be transferred to Circuit court and if the crime is death-penalty eligible, they can be sentenced to death.  Judges rarely like to see this option pursued.

What is the Grand Jury?

This is often used in cases involving charges more serious than misdemeanor charges.  The prosecution speaks directly to the Grand Jury.  The defendant may be present, but it’s not generally the practice.  The defense attorney is not allowed to be in the room.  The Grand Jury makes a determination, from the evidence presented, as to whether there’s probable cause a crime has been committed and that the defendant committed it.  This jury is different from the actual jury who will be present during the actual trial.

Statute of Limitations

These apply to cases involving misdemeanors.  Misdemeanors must be charged within a one-year period from the act.  In cases involving felony charges, there is no Statute of Limitations for crimes punishable by a year plus one day or more, in Kentucky.  If DNA evidence or other evidence surfaces even 30 years down the road, murder charges can still be brought.

Tim’s office phone number is (502) 589-6916.  You can learn more via  Tim’s principal office is located at:  235 South 5th St., Third Floor, Louisville, KY 40202.  The information from this podcast is for informational purposes only and does not establish an attorney-client relationship.  Co-host Jim Ray is a non-attorney spokesperson.  This is an attorney advertisement.