Friday, August 24, 2012

Graduate student deaths shed light on violent crime

On behalf of Anderson Law Firm posted in Criminal Defense on Monday, April 16, 2012

Two University of Southern California graduate students from China were shot and killed during what police are claiming was an attempted carjacking or robbery. Gunshots rang out in the early morning hours shattering the window of the students' car.

While one student died in the car, the other was able to exit the vehicle and run to a residence to knock on a door. It is unclear whether anyone answered the door before the man collapsed and died. According to police, the suspect fled on foot and no description of that individual has been released. When criminal charges are brought against a person for a violent crime like this case, the stakes are high. Potential prison sentences can be long.

In a state like South Carolina, the law requires that 85 percent of the sentence must be served and the state also recognizes the death penalty. So when violent criminal charges are brought, an individual could literally be fighting for their life.

The law separates violent crimes like homicide into different degrees. Depending on the seriousness of the offense, the state prosecution will have to prove several elements. Perhaps one of the most important among these is state of mind.

For example, in the USC case if the accused person is claimed to have shot and killed someone during a carjacking, then a first degree murder charge would probably be inappropriate, as it requires pre-meditation. Though possible, it is more probable that a person who intends to steal a car did not also plan to kill the occupants.

Since South Carolina is so tough on violent crime, it is important that alleged offenders do everything in their power to demonstrate doubt as to their guilt or seek a lesser charge that imposes a lesser sentence. This will force prosecutors to do their job: prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and punish those found guilty only as much as necessary.

Source:, "2 USC students from China fatally shot off campus," Greg Risling, April 11, 2012

Tags: Criminal defense

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