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Father of Juvenile Murder Suspect Claims Son Acted in Self-Defense

The father of 17-year-old murder suspect Joseph Marsala is claiming that his son acted in self-defense. Marsala is charged with Aggravated Murder for stabbing a 49-year-old man in the stomach and neck with a knife and striking him in the head with a garden tool. The man died from his injuries. The victim, Marsala and another teen were seen at a strip club in the hours leading up to the homicide. Police have not released information which would explain the relationship between the older man and the two boys, or to explain why the 49-year-old man would be at a strip club with the teens. Marsala is charged as an adult for the crime, but is currently being held in Oregon juvenile detention facility on $2 million bail.

In Nevada, Murder is defined as the unlawful killing of a person with malice aforethought. NRS 200.010. Malice can be either express or implied. In ordinary conversation, malice usually means spite. But, that is not the case in this legal context. For the purposes of a murder charge, Malice is defined in NRS 200.020 which states: ". . . Express malice is that deliberate intention unlawfully to take away the life of a fellow creature, which is manifested by external circumstances capable of proof. . . Malice shall be implied when no considerable provocation appears, or when all the circumstances of the killing show an abandoned and malignant heart."

There are two types of Murder: First- and Second-Degree Murder. First-Degree Murder is murder that is committed: (1) by poison, torture, lying in wait, or other forms of willful, deliberate and premeditated killing; (2) a killing committed in the course of certain specified felonies (called the Felony-Murder Rule); (3) a killing committed to prevent arrest or effect an escape; (4) a killing at a school, school event or on a school bus, by a person who intended to kill or injure more than one person by means of a weapon or device (a "Columbine" situation); or (5) a killing committed in the course of the commission or attempted commission of a terrorist act. NRS 200.030. All other forms of murder are Second-Degree Murder.

If a person kills another person in self-defense, that is not murder. It is called "Justifiable Homicide." NRS 200.120. In order for a killing to be considered self-defense, the person must reasonably believe that "[t]he danger was so urgent and pressing that, in order to save the person's own life, or to prevent the person from receiving great bodily harm, the killing of the other was absolutely necessary." NRS 200.200. If a killing is deemed Justifiable Homicide, the person committing the killing "shall, upon trial, be fully acquitted and discharged." NRS 200.190. This means that if a jury finds that a killing was committed in self defense, it must return a verdict of not guilty and the murder charge must be dismissed.

Murder is one of several offenses that under Nevada law cannot be charged as a juvenile crime. Murder is considered too serious to be handled by a Juvenile Court. A Murder charge against any person who is eight (8) years old or older must, by law, be automatically transferred to adult court. This is called a "Driect File" case because it is filed directly in adult court and is never filed in juvenile court. Generally, a juvenile offender who is charged with Murder will also be transferred to and held in an adult facility. Thereafter, he or she will treated as an adult for all purposes. Many times, juveniles who are held in adult jails are placed in protective custody, which can mean that they are in isolation for twenty-three (23) hours out of each day.

If you or someone you know has been charged with a violent crime such as Murder, it is imperative that you contact a Las Vegas Criminal Defense Attorney right away. A Las Vegas Criminal Defense Attorney can assist in analyzing the facts of your case and identifying appropriate defenses, such as self-defense. A Las Vegas Criminal Defense Lawyer can also advise you of your rights and provide you with the most aggressive litigation strategy possible to protect your rights.