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Note: The content of this page is based on an interview with attorney Kevin Marcilliat regarding a client of ours who was arrested after a self-defense incident and charged with first-degree murder.

As someone who comes from a long line of commercial and business lawyers, becoming a criminal defense attorney was somewhat unexpected. I got into criminal law because I truly have a passion for it, especially given the fact that I am often the only person standing between my client and a jail cell. From the two misdemeanor cases, I tried while still in law school to more recently getting a first-degree murder charge dismissed, the importance of my role as a defense attorney is never lost on me.

Speaking of that first-degree murder case, it’s not every day that first-degree murder charges are dismissed. In fact, it almost never happens. I’m proud to say that my client was on the right side of dismissal and – just as importantly – on the right side of the law in a case where my client had been charged despite lawfully using his concealed carry weapon in self-defense.

Proving My Client’s Innocence

From the very first time I interviewed the client, I was completely convinced of his innocence. It was clear that he acted in self-defense and never should have been arrested in the first place, let alone charged with first-degree murder.

An Uphill Climb

I also knew right away that this case was not going to be easy. The first obstacle was the close ties between the prosecutor and the cops involved with the arrest. When a trusted local detective believes a homicide has occurred, most prosecutors will not simply walk away from the case. My only chance was to build a case strong enough to persuade the prosecutor that the cops got it wrong.

The other obstacle in our path was time. My client was jailed without bond, and the median age for a murder case in North Carolina in 2019 was 503 days, meaning he faced a long time behind bars before even having a chance to demonstrate his innocence. This is no coincidence; the criminal justice system is designed to crush defendants into submission from the moment of their arrest, especially in serious felony cases like this one. Beyond the legal implications, defendants like mine often face damage such as lost jobs, lost relationships, and severe mental strain.

Achieving The Dismissal Of Charges

Early in my career, I learned the important lesson that the practice of law is as much about people as it is about the law. The most important person for me to influence in this case was the prosecutor, as they had the power to dismiss the charges and end this nightmare for my client. It was going to be up to me to make it happen.

Several months into the case – after multiple lengthy conversations where I pointed out the inconsistencies in the police investigation and evidence – the prosecutor agreed to set a bond and allow my client to go home while we continued to investigate the facts. Several months after that the charges were fully dismissed. Not only that, but the prosecutor paid homage to our argument by pointing out that this was a case of self-defense.

It Was A Case To Remember

This case is a perfect example of why I practice criminal law. I was able to make a real difference in my client’s life and make sure that an injustice was not allowed to stand. When I retire many years from now, I suspect there will be a handful of cases that will stick with me. I can assure you that this will be one of them.