Murder Defense: More than Meets the Eye

As criminal defense attorneys, we have to believe that the defendant is innocent. We put ourselves in the defendant's shoes to prove that there were mitigating circumstances or other issues that would disprove or question a guilty verdict.

The case of “Jose Fajardo”

Jose Fajardo was a Mexican-American man charged with the murder of his girlfriend. She was stabbed 88 times in her apartment building. Sitting before my client, I couldn’t imagine that the fury it takes to execute that kind of assault could possibly come from this likeable kid. I searched for a defense through police reports, autopsy and medical records, and witness testimony. Other than Fajardo’s personality, there seemed to be no workable defense for this case.

After five months, Fajardo opened up to me. He said that his girlfriend was a bruja (witch) of curanderismo, or Mexican folk witchcraft. She had cast an evil spell and left Fajardo with no choice but to kill her. Curanderismo became the basis for his court defense. It was a longshot, based on cultural misunderstandings and mental instability. While he was found guilty of manslaughter, he was given the opportunity to seek psychiatric help thanks to our defense.

Trust and understanding are the cornerstones of good criminal defense

This defense was only possible by gaining the client’s trust over months of work, and understanding his position in what turned out to be completely unfamiliar circumstances. I had to learn about a specific belief structure and be able to present that evidence to the court to illustrate Fajardo’s motivation behind his actions. To him, the killing was justified, and in order to protect his rights I had to make sure each member of the jury could put himself/herself in Fajardo’s shoes.

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