Philadelphia Criminal Law News

Update: Raghu Yandamuri Appears in Court

Raghu Yandamuri needed a very good attorney to help him face charges of the murder of baby Saanvi Venna and her grandmother.

It looks like he lucked out with his court-appointed public defender. This Wednesday, Yandamuri had his preliminary hearing where he appeared in front of a judge with his attorney, reports The Philadelphia Daily News.

We wrote about what it takes to get a court appointed defender in a recent post. Yandamuri is charged with the murder of a baby girl and her grandmother -- a killing which he claims stemmed from financial motives. Essentially, he was having financial trouble and saw ransom as a way out.

As someone with financial woes, he argued that he didn’t have enough funds to hire his own attorney. And since the U.S. system guarantees representation before the law, he was able to obtain a court-appointed attorney.

There’s much discussion on whether or not court-appointed counsel is effective. But let’s go back to the basic idea behind legal ethics — the attorney first and foremost owes a duty to the party he or she is representing. Attorneys are further bound by the duty of zealous representation.

Moving on to Yandamuri’s case, it seems as though his attorneys are making a good case, thus far, casting doubt on the element of intent.

A murder case requires a showing if intent. Now, as intent gets more specific, the murder charges get harsher. There’s involuntary manslaughter on one end of the spectrum and first degree murder on the other end.

That’s exactly the angle his attorney took. His attorney argued that he couldn’t be found guilty of first degree murder, since the killing was an accident.

Yandamuri committed the murders in the course of committing felonies. That’s felony murder, in many cases, which under Pennsylvania law would equate to second-degree murder.

Why is such a simple distinction so important? Because it’s the difference between life in jail and the death penalty.

More to come as the trial unfolds.

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