Ryan Lawrence’s charge has been upped from second to first-degree murder
First-degree murder is the most serious criminal charge in New York State, and it comes with a penalty of life in prison without parole.
NewsChannel 9’s Jeff Kulikowsky spoke with an experienced defense attorney about what changes and what doesn’t when a case is elevated to first-degree murder, like Ryan Lawrence’s case.
A first-degree murder charged does not occur often, since it has a very specific set of elements that must be met, like killing a police officer or in commission of another felony— and in this case, kidnapping.
Attorney Don Kelly said most attorneys will go their whole career without ever having a first-degree murder case.
From a legal point of view, Kelly says it offers almost no chance to plea bargain out of that charge unless thee are extraordinary circumstances of insufficient proof— which in this case could be the legal question of kidnapping.
Without it, there can’t be first-degree murder and the most severe sentence under state law.
“They’re going to be in prison for the rest of their life without question, so certainly there’s a great deal of pressure that goes along with that and you have to make sure that they get the best possible defense under all the circumstances, some circumstances which are very difficult,” said Kelly.
That kidnapping charge may be the key to how the case proceeds.
According to the DA, there is a case law that shows a parent, with full custody, can go beyond that point and actually kidnap their own child— an element that would make a case like this first-degree murder.
On Tuesday, Senator John DeFrancisco announced proposed legislation that would simply make the murder of a child under the age of 12, enough to qualify for first-degree murder.
NewsChannel 9 obtained court documents describing Maddox Lawrence’s murder, but due to their graphic nature and out of respect to the family, NewsChannel 9 and LocalSYR.com will not share any of those details.