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In Pennsylvania, homicide (murder) cases are the most serious and complex types of criminal matters to investigate, prosecute, or defend. The stakes in a homicide trial are the highest possible for everyone involved – the family of the deceased seeks their day in court, the prosecutor is handling a career case, and the rest of the defendant’s life often hangs in the balance. There is no litigation more significant and dramatic in the criminal justice system. A person facing any criminal charges should seek out an experienced defense attorney, but someone facing homicide charges requires a defense attorney who has already handled the uniquely complicated work of high-stakes murder litigation. The law firm of Perna & Abracht, LLC is home to attorneys who have handled multiple homicide jury trials and been victorious each time.


If you have been charged with homicide in Pennsylvania, the rest of your life is at stake. Depending on the level of offense (1st Degree Murder, 2nd Degree Murder, 3rd Degree Murder, or Voluntary/Involuntary Manslaughter), you could face up to life in prison or even the death penalty. The police and prosecutors know this, and they will commit every available resource to the successful prosecution of the case.

The first phase of the case is the investigation. In Chester County, the gathering of evidence and the creation of a narrative will be handled by the most experienced detectives from the local municipality with assistance from the Chester County Detectives. There will be very few mistakes made by these investigators. You may be questioned or asked to give a statement. Police may ask to search your home, your car, and/or your property. How you respond to such a request can dictate the course of the investigation, the result of a trial, or even the next several decades (or the rest) of your life. Having a defense attorney who knows if, when, and how to speak to the police at this stage is absolutely invaluable, because everything matters in a homicide investigation.


If you are charged after the initial investigation, the second phase will be the preliminary hearing. Oftentimes a formality, this proceeding gains incredible importance in a homicide case. The Commonwealth is required to put on some evidence that a crime (homicide) was committed and that you are the one who committed it, but the prosecutor and police will also attempt not to reveal too much evidence. This is because a preliminary hearing for homicide is not only recorded, but due to the seriousness of the charge, there will also be a court reporter present for the hearing. All evidence presented by the Commonwealth is therefore preserved for future stages of the litigation, including for the eventual jury trial. If a police officer makes a misstatement at the preliminary hearing, or answers a question incorrectly, or is even caught in a lie, it can completely derail the Commonwealth’s case down the line. This is why experienced prosecutors will seek to introduce as little evidence as necessary to get the case through to the next stage. Having a defense attorney who understands this strategy and how to best turn it in favor of a client is of the utmost importance, because the defense only has one chance to benefit from proper questioning at this stage. Once the opportunity passes, it is gone forever – there are no do-overs of the preliminary hearing. No advantage is too small to pass-up when the rest of your life hangs in the balance, and you must have a defense attorney who recognizes – and capitalizes on – each and every possible opportunity.

The third phase includes potential motions and the inclusion or exclusion of certain evidence. Not all evidence is admissible in a criminal trial, and having a defense attorney who knows the difference can completely change the course of the litigation in a client’s favor. How a search of your person or property was conducted, what type of evidence was found, how that evidence was collected and stored, and any witness statements are just a small sample of the different parts of the police’s investigation which can come under the scrutiny of an experienced defense attorney.

Jury Trial

The fourth and final phase is the trial. In Pennsylvania, criminal trials may be by judge or by jury. The experienced criminal defense attorneys at Perna & Abracht, LLC will always advise a client to pursue their right to a trial by jury, as a jury verdict must be unanimous. That is, all twelve jurors must agree, together, as to your guilt on each and every element of each and every charge. If one juror disagrees on one element of one charge, that charge cannot result in a guilty verdict. Jurors are people just like you, your family, and your friends. Every person has different life experiences which give them their individual perspectives. Having a defense attorney who has been through the gauntlet of jury selection will make all the difference in choosing twelve citizens for this ultimate phase of litigation.

The trial is the main event in which a thousand small decisions concerning strategy, timing, and presentation can make all the difference for a client. When twelve strangers are sitting in judgement of you, and every resource of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is brought to bear upon your freedom, you need a defense attorney by your side who has spent significant time preparing for and sitting in high-stakes jury trials. During a trial, there is only one person in the courtroom who is on your side: that is your attorney, and the defense of your freedom begins when you choose who will represent you.

During his career as a prosecutor, Ryan Borchik successfully investigated, tried before a jury, and convicted numerous individuals for Murder of the First and Third Degrees, including Andre Smith, Tyrell Jacobs, and Timothy Jacobs, and he never lost a case. Ryan now brings and uses his knowledge, training, and years of experience on the prosecution side of the criminal justice system to his vigorous defense of individuals charged with all kinds of crimes, including homicide. Knowing how prosecutors approach, work-up, and try different criminal cases gives Ryan valuable advantages as a defense attorney, and his clients an invaluable advantage.