Second Degree Murder Defences

If you are charged with second degree murder, there are several defences that your lawyer can use to fight the charges. The defence strategy used by your lawyer is dependent on the facts of the case and laws of that particular jurisdiction. Here are some of the main defences that your lawyers will advise you to use for second degree murder charges.

Actual Innocence

The defence that your lawyer will most likely ask you to use is that you did not commit the crime. Such a defence has several elements like an alibi that challenges the evidence of the prosecution. The prosecution has to prove beyond reasonable doubt that you committed murder. Therefore, by causing the jury to doubt the prosecution's assertion of guilt, you are likely to get a no guilty charge.


In some situations, an insanity defence will not entirely relieve you of a second degree murder charge. In these cases, the jury will accept an insanity defences but will still claim that you were aware that your actions were prohibited or wrong when committing the crime. In such cases, the verdict will be guilty but mentally ill. This means that though you are mentally ill, you had control over what you were doing when the murder took place.

In cases where the full insanity defence is accepted, you have to prove that your actions during the incident were those of a mentally ill person. Different jurisdictions use different strategies for testing whether one is legally insane.

The Irresistible Impulse Test- The defendant could not control his impulses and this resulted in a criminal act.

The "M'Naghten Rule"- The defendant did not comprehend what they were doing or was unable to differentiate between what was right and what was wrong because of their mental illness.

The "Model Penal Code" Test for Legal Insanity- Because the defendant was diagnosed with a mental defect, they either could not act within the limits of the law or could not understand that their actions were criminal.

Self Defence

When a second degree murder occurs when you are protecting yourself, you can escape jail by claiming self defence. The arguments for a self defence claim vary between jurisdictions; however, there are certain common elements of a self defence claim.

First of all, you should commit the act in a place where you had a right to be in. For example, committing murder in someone else's property and claiming self defence cannot succeed in court.

Secondly, if you provoked the victim, you cannot claim self defence.

Last but not least, you should have a reasonable fear of great bodily harm or death that led you to use force. Furthermore, you can only raise the self defence argument if the circumstances required immediate action to prevent loss of life and bodily harm.

For example, if you act in self defence by firing a shot that knocks down your assailant, you have enough time to see that the threat has been terminated, you cannot justify firing another shot as self defence.