Tag Archives: Pittsburgh Murder Lawyer

Taking a Stand: How to Challenge Police Officer Testimony. #CriminalDefenseAttorney

Detectives Testifying at Trial. Frank Walker Law

In most criminal cases, there’s likely to be a time where a police officer takes the stand to present evidence for the prosecution.  How the police officer witness is handled can make or break any case.  Police witnesses offer special challenges on cross examination.  First of all, there are inherent biases to combat with the jury.  The jury looks at the accused as a potential criminal and liar. Meanwhile, police officers are often looked at by jurors with respect and admiration.  Therefore its important to ask police officer questions at trial in a planned and careful matter that takes these biases into account.

The most helpful tool in preparing for the cross examination of a police witness is their report.  The written report of police witnesses will be available in discovery, and can be used to nail down the officer to a single version of events.  The point isn’t to construct an elaborate trap like you may see on tv. Instead, you want to construct a narrative that can illustrate deficits in the officer’s testimony and memory.  This may include drawing out exactly what the officer saw (and by implication, what they didn’t see), the lighting and weather conditions, and testing their memory of events. Police officers handle hundreds of cases every year, and mistakes will happen.  And if they’re mistaken about some things, its possible for the jury to conclude they are mistaken about others.  It is also important to challenge conclusions made by officers that are not supported by physical evidence.

Sometimes the questions you don’t ask are just as important.  A well constructed cross examination leads the jury to a conclusion that they draw themselves.  Trying to force an officer to admit that they made a mistake that is obviously damaging to their case will often just give them the opportunity to explain it away, and will also give them the opportunity to heap on more damaging information about the defendant. You don’t want to open that door if the prosecution hasn’t already.

Cross examination of a police officer is both an art and a science that is honed over years of trial experience.  That’s why you want Attorney Frank Walker to be the one asking the right questions on your behalf. Attorney Walker has years of trial experience and he isn’t afraid to take a tough case to trial. Don’t just plead guilty, lawyer up and fight the case!  Call 412-532-6805 to reach his office in Pittsburgh or call (304) 712-2089 for the  office in Morgantown. Call now!

About Frank Walker Law

Attorney Frank Walker of Frank Walker Law is a National Top 100 Criminal Defense Lawyer, and Personal Injury Attorney who has been recognized as a Super Lawyer, Best Attorneys in America and a Top AVVO Rated attorney, with offices in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania and Morgantown West Virginia.

If you or someone you love are facing criminal charges or seriously injured in an accident, contact Attorney Frank Walker immediately at 412-532-6805, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for aggressive and experienced Criminal Defense or Representation in a Civil Case.

 

It Wasn’t Me: Issues in Cases of Mistaken Identity. #CriminalDefenseAttorney

Charged with a Crime based on Mistaken Identity? Contact Frank Walker Law

Hearing an eyewitness on the stand point to the defendant and say “he’s the one who did it, that guy right there” is very convincing evidence to jurors. However, in study after study, eyewitness testimony has been shown to be incredibly unreliable.  Studies show that an eyewitness’s recall of the crime can be affected by anxiety or stress, reconstructive memory, their focus on the perpetrator’s weapon, flawed lineups, and leading questions asked by the police and prosecutors.

Most crime when it happens, is unexpected and happens in the blink of an eye.  There are studies for and against the idea that the stress of a situation keeps people from being able to remember the details of that situation.  In crimes done with a weapon, there is strong evidence to show that victims focus on the weapon and are able to describe it in great detail, but are often unable to remember key attributes of the person holding the gun including things such as their height, race and hair color.

A huge issue in cases of mistaken identity are the use of police lineups and photo-arrays to identify potential culprits in various cases like Murder, Rape or Kidnapping.   There is considerable case law on how to apply lineups or display photo-arrays in a way that passes constitutional muster.  Lineups and photo-arrays must be administered in an unbiased way where the police aren’t being suggestive of who they believe the culprit to be. Also, when using photo-arrays, the photos must be chosen and displayed in a way that the suspect does not unfairly stand out from the witnesses initial description. A lineup or photo-array of all individuals of a difference race than the description provided except for the suspect would be outrageously suggestive. If lineups and photo-arrays aren’t administered properly, a good lawyer can get that evidence suppressed and excluded from being used as evidence against you.

That’s where Attorney Frank Walker can help. He has years of experience in challenging eyewitness testimony and successfully getting evidence suppressed and cases based on mistaken identity thrown out.  If you have a case where identity is at issue in Pittsburgh, PA or Morgantown, WV  Attorney Walker is the advocate you need.  Call 412-532-6805 to reach the Pittsburgh office or (304) 712-2089 for our office in Morgantown, West Virginia. Call now!

About Frank Walker Law

Attorney Frank Walker of Frank Walker Law is a National Top 100 Criminal Defense Lawyer, and Personal Injury Attorney who has been recognized as a Super Lawyer, Best Attorneys in America and a Top AVVO Rated attorney, with offices in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania and Morgantown West Virginia.

If you or someone you love are facing criminal charges or seriously injured in an accident, contact Attorney Frank Walker immediately at 412-532-6805, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for aggressive and experienced Criminal Defense or Representation in a Civil Case.

Would You Know What to Do? Why You Need a #CriminalLawyer

Pop quiz, hotshot. There’s a bomb on a bus…

Why you Really Need to Speak with a Criminal Defense Lawyer
Why you Really Need to Speak with a Criminal Defense Lawyer

No, not really. But I always loved that line from the 1994 blockbuster film, “Speed,” starring Keanu Reeves, Sandra Bullock, and Dennis Hopper. In the movie (spoiler alert), Howard Payne, a disgruntled explosives expert now in retirement, plants bombs around Los Angeles, including one on the city bus Bullock’s character, Annie, was memorably forced to drive above 50 mph lest it should explode killing all of its passengers. In a chilling phone call, we hear Payne detail to S.W.A.T. member, Jack Traven, the gruesome scenario for this bombing, poignantly asking Jack as he concludes, “What do you do?”

It is a valid question. What do you do in a situation where there are multiple variables you cannot possibly control? Worse still, what if you are unfamiliar with how those variables can impact your freedom, your future, and in those worst-case scenarios, whether you live or die? In the blink of an eye and when you least expect it, you can find yourself in legal trouble and involved in just such a situation.

Take, for example, the following scenario. You hear a knock on your door. You answer, and two police officers inform you that your neighbor is dead and that you were the last person seen leaving his home two days earlier. They would like to question you. “Sure,” you say. After all, you did not murder your neighbor. Two days ago you were away on a fishing trip, alone. “Why shouldn’t you speak with them?”

Police
What do you do when a Detective knocks on your Door?

So you invite the police into your home and allow them to question you. You are positive that by cooperating you have something to gain. Surely you will be rewarded for being the “good guy.” But did you ever hear the proverb, “No good deed goes unpunished”? I am here to tell you no good can come of speaking with the police without the presence of an attorney, despite your innocence. Here’s why.

Even though you did not murder your neighbor, you may make a statement that can incriminate you. If the police have come to question you, they already have some suspicion about your involvement and, likely, enough probable cause to arrest you before you even say a word. Your chance of dissuading them from arresting you, therefore, is small. However, the more you speak, the more opportunity you have for inadvertently creating further doubt in their minds as to your innocence and, down the road, potentially the minds of jurors. It is easy to make statements that can be disproven later, either because you forget details from your past or do not think a detail is relevant when it is.

If, on the other hand, you did murder your neighbor, are suddenly overcome with guilt, and want to confess, you still should not speak with the police without the presence of a lawyer. There are degrees to many crimes, not only murder, and the evidence you provide or do not provide can determine your charge as well as your punishment. The state is often more lenient with a defendant who cooperates than with one who does not. By immediately admitting guilt to the police, you are in essence making the Government’s case for it, losing your bargaining power in the process.

If you find yourself implicated in a criminal situation, it is important to seek legal counsel as quickly as possible. Those early stages of an investigation can determine the level of your involvement and eventually your sentencing. A skilled, knowledgeable, and experienced criminal attorney will assess your case and advise you exactly how to proceed, thereby minimizing your exposure, and increasing your chances of passing that pop quiz with flying colors. Now I ask you, “What do you do?”

Attorney Frank Walker of Frank Walker Law is a National Top 100 Criminal Defense Lawyer and Personal Injury Attorney with offices in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania and Morgantown West Virginia. Attorney Walker is also a member of the National College for DUI Defense, Super Lawyers and qualified as a Pennsylvania Death Penalty Defense Attorney.

If you or someone you love are facing criminal charges or seriously injured in an accident in WV or PA, contact Attorney Frank Walker immediately at 412-532-6805, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for aggressive and experienced Criminal Defense or Representation following a serious accident or injury.

The Heat is On: Charges for Arson and Related Offenses #Pittsburgh #CriminalLawyer

Pittsburgh Arson Lawyer - Frank Walker Law
Pittsburgh Arson Lawyer – Frank Walker Law

When you watch shows like Chicago Fire or Rescue Me, it is easy to get the impression that the offense of Arson is only committed by sociopathic firebugs who are in love with fire, or failing businessmen attempting to commit insurance fraud. However, the perpetrators of arson may also come from the ranks of mischievous teens setting a fire in a dumpster, or negligent brush and trash burners who fail to take the necessary precautions when setting a fire and don’t report it promptly. Regardless of who the offender is, arson is a serious criminal charge.

        Arson in Pennsylvania is divided into seven separate subsections under Section 3301 of the Crimes Code. Those categories are arson endangering persons, arson endangering property, arson, reckless burning or exploding, failure to control or report dangerous fires, and possession of explosive or incendiary materials or devices.  These statutes cover everything ranging from the classic scenario where an offender burns someone’s house or business down, to the uncontrolled burning of brush.

        In order to prove a person guilty of arson, the Commonwealth must show that there was a fire, the fire was set intentionally, and that the defendant is responsible.   Unfortunately for many offenders, the fact that the fire was not intended to spread beyond a limited area is not necessarily fully exculpatory in an arson case. Also, in cases where the fire is intentionally set to endanger a person or property, a person can be convicted of dangerous burning even if no damage to a person or property actually occurs.

        The repercussions and severity of arson charges can vary significantly depending on the circumstances, the intent of the offender, the property burned, and the people potentially put in danger by the fire.  A charge of dangerous burning, for example, may just be a summary offense. However, in the case of a fire that potentially kills people, you can be looking at murder related arson charges and a full spectrum of arson related felonies.  What subsection an offender ultimately ends up convicted of is heavily dependent on the facts surrounding the fire, and their interpretation in a court of law.

        Due to the severe and varying penalties surrounding charges of arson, it is important that anyone facing these charges retain an experienced criminal defense attorney who can fight on their behalf.  When the heat is on, Attorney Frank Walker can fight to get the charges dismissed or reduced, and prepare you with a strong defense going forward.   Don’t get burnt by facing court without an attorney. Call Walker Law today.

Attorney Frank Walker of Frank Walker Law is a National Top 100 Criminal Defense Lawyer and Personal Injury Attorney with offices in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania and Morgantown West Virginia. Attorney Walker is also a member of the National College for DUI Defense, Super Lawyer and qualified as a Pennsylvania Death Penalty Defense Attorney.

If you or someone you love are facing criminal charges or seriously injured in an accident in WV or PA, contact Attorney Frank Walker immediately at 412-532-6805, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for aggressive and experienced Criminal Defense or Representation following a serious accident or injury.

Fighting Back! The Use of Affirmative Defenses in Your Criminal Case

Frank Walker Law Pittsburgh Lawyer

Affirmative defenses, generally speaking, are defenses that if proven by the defendant, mitigate or excuse the conduct of the defendant on legal grounds, even though absent the defense the defendant could have potentially been found guilty of the underlying criminal charge. Affirmative defenses include self-defense, defense of others, defense of property, insanity, intoxication, mistake of fact or law, consent, accident, coercion and duress, execution of public duty, entrapment, and other offense-specific defenses.

Once an affirmative defense has been raised, it is up to the Commonwealth to disprove that defense (with exceptions).  This does not mean that in a criminal case the Commonwealth must disprove all potential affirmative defenses. Instead, affirmative defenses must be raised before they must be contested by the Commonwealth.

A thorough explanation of each defense could constitute the basis of their own post, but generally speaking, most affirmative defenses include a justification or excuse for the intent element necessary to convict of a crime.  For example, in a Simple Assault case, it is a necessary element that the defendant attempted to cause or intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly caused bodily injury to another.  With the affirmative defenses of self-defense or defense of others, the intent is to protect the self or someone else, not to cause injury to the one assaulted.

Not every affirmative defense puts the burden on the Commonwealth to disprove it beyond a reasonable doubt. For example, to establish the defense of entrapment, the burden is on the defense to show that the evidence demonstrates that the evidence shows that it is more likely than not (a preponderance of the evidence standard) that the defendant was entrapped.  Likewise in the case of an insanity defense, the burden is on the Defense to establish that a defense of insanity applies by a preponderance of the evidence.  Most affirmative defenses may be brought up for the first time at trial, with the exception of defenses such as insanity or mental infirmity which require notice to the Commonwealth in a timely manner.

If you or a loved one has been accused of a criminal offense it is important that you retain an experienced attorney who can assess your potential culpability and mount a serious defense to the charges.  Attorney Frank Walker of Frank Walker Law is a National Top 100 Criminal Defense Lawyer and Personal Injury Attorney with offices in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Morgantown, West Virginia. Call now for a consultation! Our number is (412) 212-3878 for our clients in Pennsylvania and (304) 712-2089 for those in West Virginia.

You Get What You Give: How to Prepare for Your Sentencing Hearing

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Whether you were convicted of a criminal offense as a result of a plea bargain or went to trial and were found guilty, the ultimate disposition of the case will come at a sentencing hearing. In some cases this may be done immediately after entering a plea or receiving a verdict, while in other cases it is scheduled a month or two after the conviction. The sentencing hearing is a hearing in which the sentencing judge will have broad discretion in imposing a sentencing (notwithstanding the terms of the plea agreement). It is important to know the possible consequences you are facing, and how to put yourself in the best position for a favorable disposition.

The overwhelming majority of sentences received (not including sentences received upon revocation of probation and parole) fall into what is known as the standard range. Standard range sentencing is a topic worthy of its own post, however the basic idea is that the range available for your potential minimum sentence is derived from the use of a sentencing matrix. The X axis of this matrix is your Prior Record Score, which is calculated from prior criminal offenses you have been convicted of. The Y axis is the Offense Gravity Score, which is the seriousness of the current offense. This will give a range of minimums for the judge to choose from, but that range can carry potential sentences that vary by over a year in some cases.

That’s why it is important to be prepared for your sentencing hearing. Depending on the nature of the offense and your prior record, the court may order a pre-sentence investigation report (PSI). This report will be made available to the judge, and involve the results of an interview had with the defendant about the defendant’s home life, their version of events, prior record, substance abuse issues, and other relevant data. In addition to this PSI, at the time of sentencing, the attorneys may make argument about anything relevant that may influence the judge’s decision.

As a defendant, it is important you have positive evidence to present on your behalf. Gainful employment, proactive efforts made to address substance abuse and mental health issues, community involvement, payments of restitution, and good behavior on supervision or while incarcerated, are all positive factors to present on your behalf.

Attorney Frank Walker has the experience with Courts in Allegheny County and the surrounding areas and knows what you need to do to be in the best position at sentencing. He can prepare you for the PSI interview and tell you the potential consequences of your actions. If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges and need help tackling these complicated issues, call Attorney Frank Walker at (412) 315-7441. Don’t gamble with your liberty! Call today

Be Prepared From the Start: The Basics of Preliminary Hearings

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The preliminary hearing is one of the first, most important steps in any new criminal case. If you or a loved one has been accused of a criminal offense you may be wondering what the role of the preliminary hearing is in the proceedings. You may be wondering what the potential outcomes of a preliminary hearing are, and you may have questions as to your rights and obligations in regards to the hearing.

At a preliminary hearing, the Commonwealth has the burden to show that they have what is called a prima facie case relating the charges alleged. Prima Facie is latin for “at first sight.” Generally speaking, the Commonwealth must present evidence and testimony that, if taken as true, would arise to a violation of the criminal code. The burden of proof is lower at a preliminary hearing, as hearsay is admissible as evidence. Also, the preliminary hearing is not the time for challenges based on the credibility of witnesses. Instead, the only assessment is whether, if what the Commonwealth is presenting is taken at face value, that those allegations would meet the elements of the crimes charged.

A majority of cases that reach a preliminary hearing are bound over for court. The preliminary hearing is not a trial. It is merely the beginning of your criminal case. In some cases the goal of the preliminary hearing is to have the charges dismissed based upon a finding of a lack of a prima facie case. However, a preliminary hearing serves other functions important to the defense. It is often the first opportunity to hear what the Commonwealth is offering as evidence against you. This is the first step to begin building a proper defense, figuring out who the witnesses will be and what potential evidence is out there ahead of discovery. Also witnesses for the Commonwealth will have testimony on the record that can be used against them at a potential suppression hearing or at trial.

In some cases, it may be a good idea to waive the preliminary hearing. Though a preliminary hearing is important in many cases, often times waiving a preliminary hearing can have benefits as well. An attorney may at times negotiate a reduction in bail or potential recommendations for programs such as ARD in which the waiver of the preliminary hearing is used as a bargaining chip.

If you or a loved one has an upcoming preliminary hearing, now is the time to retain an experienced criminal defense attorney. The preliminary hearing is the first of many strategic moves for defense counsel to handle that will begin to shape your entire case. Attorney Frank Walker has defended hundreds of criminal cases in Allegheny County and the surrounding areas and can aid you in building the best legal defense possible. Call the offices of Frank Walker Law at (412) 315-7441 to set up a consultation today!