Depraved heart murder case to be tried locally

The trial of a police officer charged with a depraved heart murder may begin as early as October.

The death of a man in Baltimore this spring after being arrested by six local police officers had received immense attention around the country. This level of attention prompted defense attorneys to request that trials for the officers be moved out of Baltimore.

According to the New York Times, a judge in a Circuit Court recently ruled that the trials will remain in Baltimore and that they could begin by October of this year. If it becomes impossible to find juries for the cases, the decision about where to host the trials could be revisited.

Why the debate?

Certainly the request to move a trial is rare and is generally only made when circumstances out of the ordinary are at play. In this case, the unique nature of the charges facing one of the six officers in the case has led to this request. All six of the officers have been charged with different levels of crimes in relation to the man's death and three of those people are awaiting trial for manslaughter. One man, however, has been charged with what is called depraved heart murder.

What does depraved heart murder mean?

Generally, allegations of murder indicate a belief that the defendant intended to kill the other person or persons. With a depraved heart murder, this is not the case although certainly the death of another person does happen.

As noted by CBS News, a person accused of depraved heart murder is alleged to have consciously acted in some way that could have caused the death of someone else. In addition, the actions were taken with no consideration whatsoever for the person who eventually died. In fact, a depraved heard murder charge essentially alleges that a defendant knew that another person could die and but that the defendant simply did not care.

USA Today provided an analogy to explain depraved heart murder. If someone shoots a gun into the window of a passenger train with people on board, the chance that someone inside will die exists. In this example, the shooter could be charged with depraved heart murder.

Convictions and penalties

People can be sentenced to as many as 30 years in prison for this crime. Another difference between depraved heart murder and murder is what is required in order to convict a person. No proof that a defendant killed another person is needed. Instead, only proof that the defendant acted in such a way that may have led to the death is needed.

What should defendants do?

As soon as a criminal charge involving any form of murder is alleged, action is important. Contacting an experienced lawyer should be one of the first things that defendants in Pennsylvania do.