A 24-year-old Anaheim man could face the death penalty after allegedly killing his wife and his 6-month-old son. According to a news report in The Orange County Register, the Anaheim man appeared in court but did not enter a plea. Officials believe he stabbed his wife and child to death with a kitchen knife during an argument on June 22, 2015. He faces two felony counts of murder with special circumstances and a sentencing enhancement for personal use of a deadly weapon. If convicted, the minimum sentence is life without parole. It is unclear if prosecutors will pursue the death penalty.
The difference between a murder case and murder with special circumstances are significant. While a murder charge can result in life without parole, special circumstances allow the court to pursue the death penalty. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1972 that prosecutors must prove that the murder involved special circumstances that merit the death penalty.
Situations in California that can escalate a murder case to a murder with special circumstances case include:
- Financial gain: The prosecution must prove that the murder was intentional, carried out for financial gain, and involved another felony such as robbery.
- Repeat offense: A first-degree murder can become special circumstances murder if the defendant was already convicted of first- or second-degree murder.
- Multiple murders: First-time offenders can face special circumstances charges if the case involved multiple victims.
- Use of destructive device: It is special circumstances murder if the defendant planted, delivered or threw an explosive device.
- Other circumstances: Special circumstance murder cases can also involve the murder of a witness, a police officer or someone connected to a court case. Other special circumstance cases involve murder in commission of a felony, murder because of race, nationality or religion, murder by poison, drive-by shooting and gang-related activities.
Anyone facing murder-related charges needs immediate legal guidance. All legal defenses should be considered before any entering a plea. An experienced Orange County defense attorney at the Law Offices of David A. Stein can help you navigate the Orange County justice system. We are available for a no-cost consultation on all criminal defense matters. Call our offices today at 949-445-0040 for a confidential consultation.