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Rhode Island Murder Defense Lawyers

When you are facing the most serious charge and the most severe penalties, you need an attorney who is experienced, thorough, and knowledgeable about every aspect of Rhode Island homicide law.  A murder charge effects your entire family and will be life-changing, no matter what the outcome.  The allegation alone will turn everything upside down.  It is very important to find an attorney that will help you with all of the consequences of a murder charge.  


The first question that every family asks (and should ask) is, "Have you ever handled a case like this before?"  Families want to feel confident that the lawyer they hire is the best criminal defense attorney in Rhode Island, and the best attorney for murder charges.  Attorneys Kara Manosh and Elizabeth Payette have extensive experience working on Rhode Island murder cases, from pretrial negotiation and investigation, to trials, to appeals, to post-conviction relief.  Our attorneys have expertise in Rhode Island homicide law and the types of evidence that the State uses to convict people, like DNA, fingerprints, cell site analysis, forensic pathology, ballistics, fire science, Reid technique/confessions, and all types of medical evidence.  We have represented clients accused of:

  • Firearm murder with a gang enhancement
  • Death caused by asphyxiation
  • Domestic murder of wife 
  • Unintended death by gunshot wound
  • Stabbing death after physical fight
  • Death caused by physical fight/fists
  • Murder of a child
  • Stabbing death during robbery
  • Imperfect self-defense with death resulting
  • Shooting death of witness
  • Shaken baby syndrome, death resulting 
  • Shooting into a large crowd, causing death by gunshot wound
  • Murder while legally insane
  • Overdose of a child exposed to a controlled substance 
  • Self-defense stabbing of armed attacker, death resulting
  • Armed home invasion, stabbing death of occupant
  • Beating death 
  • Home invasion with intent to steal, co-conspirator shoots occupant
  • Stabbing death while intoxicated
  • Circumstantial murder without a body
  • Murder of a police officer
  • Revenge murder
  • Premeditated murder for hire
  • And many, many other allegations of murder

Rhode Island Murder Charges

In Rhode Island, the State will charge "murder" which actually encompasses first-degree murder, second-degree murder and manslaughter.  

First Degree Murder

          The unlawful killing of a human being with malice aforethought, which is committed by willful, deliberate, malicious and premeditated manner.

          An act is done willfully if it is done intentionally and voluntarily- not by mistake or accident.

          Malicious and premeditation mean deliberate and voluntary actions resulting from prior consideration of the act itself.  The prior consideration must exist in the mind for more than a moment's duration.  A defendant must have already fixed in his mind, for more than a moment, an intention to kill before the fatal act occurs and that conscious fixation must have been more than just a fleeting or momentary thought.

          Malice may be expressed or implied.  An act is committed with malice when it is committed with wanton disregard for the probability of death or great bodily harm.  Malice can arise from either an express intent to kill or to inflict great bodily harm OR it may be implied from wanton recklessness and an extreme indifference to the sanctity of human life.  Malice aforethought is the conscious design or intent to kill.  So, before killing the victim, the Defendant thought about doing it, and he thereafter acted upon that thought. 

Second Degree Murder

          The unlawful killing of a human being with malice aforethought, not committed in a willful, deliberate, malicious and premeditated manner.  

          The critical difference between first- and second-degree murder is the time between the formation of the intent to kill and the killing itself.  If a person's intent to kill existed only momentarily or fleetingly before committing the fatal act, it is second degree murder. 

Voluntary Manslaughter

          An intentional homicide without malice aforethought in the heat of passion and as a result of adequate provocation.  The four components are: heat of passion + adequate provocation + no cooling off period + causal connection between the provocation and the fatal act.

          Adequate provocation is an objective test.  The jury asks whether a reasonable person in similar circumstances would have been inflamed and caused to act out of passion rather than reason, aka- a momentary deprivation of self-control. 

          Heat of passion is a subjective test:  Did the defendant actually kill in the heat of passion? It is not necessary for the passion to be so extreme that the defendant didn't know what he was doing- just sufficiently great enough that his action was being directed by passion rather than reason.  Heat of passion may include fear, terror or anger.  Cooling off is an objective test:  Was there a reasonable opportunity for the passion to cool under all of the circumstances- allowing reason to set in?

       The causal relationship requirement is that the adequate provocation must have caused the heat of passion and the heat of passion must have caused the fatal act. 

Involuntary Manslaughter

          An unintentional homicide.


          A person may defend himself whenever he reasonably believes that he is in imminent danger of bodily harm at the hands of another.  The person need not wait for the other person to strike the first blow.  A person may only claim self-defense if:

  • He actually believed that he was in imminent danger of bodily harm;
  • He has reasonable grounds for that belief.

The question is not whether, in hindsight, the amount of force used was actually necessary.  Rather, if whether the Defendant, under all of the circumstances that existed at the time as they appeared to the Defendant, actually believed he was in imminent danger of bodily and harm and was reasonable to maintain that belief. 

Reasonable force means an amount of force that is reasonably believed to be necessary to protect himself from imminent harm.  Deadly force is permitted only when a Defendant believes he is in imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm from which he can only save himself by using deadly force. 

The law imposes a duty to retreat prior to using deadly force only if the Defendant is consciously aware of an open, safe, and available avenue of escape. 

A person who instigates the combative confrontation cannot invoke the doctrine of self-defense. 

The State must disprove self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt.

When should I hire an attorney?

If you or someone you love is under investigation after a death in Rhode Island, you are likely filled with anxiety, stress and fear.  There is no question that the accusation alone can ruin lives.  Your first priority should be to find an attorney that you trust to help you and your family through this difficult time.  Attorneys Kara Manosh and Elizabeth Payette have the experience and the time-tested reputation to give you exceptional advice... we have the patience, empathy and kindness to help your family get through this... and we have the fight you will want to bring to every court date, every motion, and every argument.  As soon as you find out that the police are investigating a death, contact Manosh Payette, LLC to start the process of clearing your name.  Contact Manosh Payette, LLC, because your future deserves the best defense

Schedule a Consultation

Your rights, your freedom, and your future are at stake. Our dedicated team of career defenders at Manosh Payette, LLC is here to fight for you.

We offer a free case strategy session and will gladly discuss your case with you at your convenience. Contact us today to schedule a confidential consultation.