Albany attorney weighs in on charging a murder case

NewsChannel 13 is continuing to dig deeper into the charges the suspect is facing in the New Scotland homicide case.

Jacob Klein was indicted this week on a second degree murder charge — accused of killing Philip Rabadi, his ex-girlfriend’s husband.

Paul DerOhannesian is an Albany attorney. He is not working on the New Scotland case, but he says some specific things can determine whether a defendant is charged with first or second-degree murder.

In New York, he says, first-degree murder can mean killing a police officer, firefighter, or corrections officer. It can also mean contract killings or murder for hire—also, killing multiple people.

With second-degree murder, as in the New Scotland case, prosecutors will only have to prove intent, which is demonstrated through evidence like emails or texts as well as how the acts took place.

He says ultimately, deciding how to bring charges to a grand jury is a strategic move by the prosecution.

"Ordinarily, prosecutors will charge the first-degree murder charge, because it gives them more leverage in plea negotiations, because the punishment for first degree is life without parole, the maximum for second degree is 25 years to life. So by charging murder in the first degree, you can provide more of an incentive to a defendant to accept murder in the second degree of 25 to life," DerOhannesian explained.

Another factor is proving premeditation, that the crime was planned. He says that’s not required with a second degree murder charge.

"The prosecutor doesn’t have to, particularly if the prosecutor doesn’t feel he or she has a strong case for murder in the first degree. But generally, if they have sufficient proof, you’ll see the murder in the first degree charge," he said.

We also heard from police that the suspect hired an attorney before being arrested.

DerOhannesian says that’s something he would advise anyone to do before speaking to police. He says the Supreme Court has said that innocent people can assert their right to counsel, and that it’s important to protect yourself from making an incriminating statement without knowing it.

"Innocent people, not just those who may have criminal liability, should assert their right to counsel for a variety of reasons. Do you really know and are you qualified to know what a crime is? Most people won’t have an insight into what all the possible crimes are," he said, explaining how easy it could be to incriminate yourself during questioning.

NewsChannel 13 is also following how family and friends are honoring Philip Rabadi. Click here for more information.