First degree murder is likely the most serious felony crime that a person can commit, and accordingly brings with it the most severe penalties and consequences. The first-degree murder law can be found at 720 ILCS 5/9-1.
First degree murder, unlike second-degree murder or manslaughter, requires a finding that the offender either intended to kill the victim, or intended to cause the victim great bodily harm, or that he or she knew that his or her acts would have a high likelihood of causing death to that person. Additionally, under the felony-murder rule, a person commits first degree murder if he or she causes the death of another person while committing a forcible felony other than second degree murder.
According to wgntv.com, the high-profile trial of a Chicago woman facing first degree murder charges began this week in Cook County court. Robin Johnson faces the first degree murder charges after allegedly shooting and killing a 27-year veteran police officer, 60-year-old Richard Francis on July 2, 2008.
The Chicago Tribune reports that Mr. Francis was shot in the head after responding to complaints that Ms. Johnson was harassing a CTA bus passenger. Mr. Francis had been patrolling the streets alone that night, and went to the scene to investigate alone. According to witnesses, at some point Mr. Francis and Ms. Johnson got into a fight, and Mr. Francis’ weapon was discharged, striking him in the head and killing him. While public defenders say that Ms. Johnson had no intention of killing Mr. Francis with the firearm, prosecutors argue that Ms. Johnson was seen pointing the gun at Mr. Johnson’s head, and pulling the trigger.
Ms. Johnson allegedly grabbed Mr. Francis’ gun after the shooting, and ran behind his police car as other officers came after her. She was shot several times as she hid behind the car and allegedly pointed the gun at the responding officers. Ms. Johnson’s defense team is hopeful that surveillance videos will show the jury that Ms. Johnson did not grab the gun, but that at most there was some kind of struggle for it. Prosecutors have eyewitness testimony from several officers that they saw Ms. Johnson holding the gun after Mr. Francis was shot in the head.
Ultimately, the jury will have to determine whether Ms. Johnson committed first degree murder. The jury will also have to determine whether there are aggravating factors present that would make her eligible for the death penalty.
If you have been charged with violating Illinois criminal laws, you should immediately contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. Call an attorney at Goldman & Associates today for a confidential consultation.