Premeditation and Craigslist: Murder Charges vary by the Second

What began as a convenient, online combination of a yard sale and newspaper want ads now feels like an ideal trap for criminal behavior. Craigslist has been a firebrand for controversy over the last couple of years that saw victims arriving to purchase items advertised on the site only to suffer grievous injuries or be killed outright by the would-be sellers. The latest attack and subsequent murder charges involving the website happened last Friday night in Philadelphia, where a 27-year-old New Jersey man answered a Craigslist ad to purchase an ATV.

Philadelphia City Hall building.

Enticing Victims using Online Platforms

When he – multiple reports identify the man as Daniel Cook – arrived in the city to purchase the vehicle, a man identifying himself as the seller led him down the street to inspect the item. That’s when his two friends, who stayed behind, heard gunshots, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Cook suffered a gunshot to the head, and though police and emergency responders arriving quickly, he died at the scene. Police have noted that offenders in the area, and across the country, have used the online marketplace as a lure to rob ad respondents and in many cases, murder them.

It’s happened in Ohio and San Diego over the past several months resulting in at least five deaths. In Ohio, a judge has recommended the death penalty for Richard Beasley, a 53-year-old man who was convicted of luring multiple victims to a farm on the Craigslist promise of work where he robbed and murdered them.

Premeditation in Charges involving Murder

It’s the element of premeditation that leads most often to charges of first-degree or capital murder. Many states consider the state of mind of the attacker, and the level of malice used in the killing. We’re seeing it right now as a new jury considers whether Jodi Arias was particularly cruel in the killing of her boyfriend Travis Alexander. It’s not just how an assailant takes a life, but the manner in which they do the terrible deed that matters for leveling the death penalty.

An assailant does not need hours or days to consider their plan for prosecutors to charge them with premeditated murder. In many cases, only minutes elapse between the formulation of the plan to kill and the execution of that act. In the legal word, that’s all that is necessary to satisfy the statute and bring charges. This element leads to grey area, which criminal defense attorneys have to hammer home to authorities and juries when advocating for their clients. Lashing out in anger at someone is not a premeditated act, and neither is assaulting someone where the action results in death. The distinction may seem small, but it makes all the difference in a trial setting for achieving the best results for the accused.

If you or someone close to you is facing criminal charges, they need every available minute to formulate the strongest legal defense possible. Contact our experienced attorneys today for a consultation about the case. We make jailhouse visits if necessary, and the time of day does not matter. Call today to get the help you and your family need.         

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Commonwealth v. "H" (DUI case)

Client was charged with three separate DUI cases calling for mandatory minimum imprisonment of 90 days on each case. Client was advised to seek immediate intensive alcohol counseling. Client was sentenced to 1 year of house arrest after serving 3 days in the county prison.

CASE DISMISSED

Commonwealth v. "C" (Felony drug/Firearms case)

Client was charged with felony Delivery of drugs and illegal gun possession and was facing a mandatory 3-6 year prison sentence in the State prison system. Client was sentenced to one year of house arrest.

CASE DISMISSED

Commonwealth v. "S"

Client was charged with simple assault, domestic. After a hearing where evidence and testimony was presented, the entire case was dismissed by Judge Leonard Brown.

CASE DISMISSED

State of New Jersey v. "H"

Charges for young man charged with second degree aggravated assault were downgraded to third degree and he was accepted into the County Pretrial Intervention program with charges to be dismissed and record expunged after one year of misconduct free behavior.

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