Gaege Bethune of Eldorado, Illinois, will be sentenced on August 15 after being convicted in the 2014 death of a student attending Southern Illinois University. The two men, ages 19 and 24, were intoxicated and fighting while out looking for cocaine. Bethune hit the student so many times it resulted in a head injury that left the student disoriented. That disorientation led to his death from hypothermia.
Although Bethune says he wanted a different attorney because he wasn’t satisfied with his attorney’s representation on the first-degree murder charges, the judge says he will not delay the sentencing.
It is never easy to lose a loved one, but especially if their death was caused by murder. While filing a lawsuit won’t bring back your loved one, it can ease the financial burden from their loss. When it comes to murder, there are criminal penalties that the defendant can face, but there could also be civil penalties as well.
How Are Murder and Wrongful Death Connected?
Murder is a criminal action where the actions of one individual directly result in the death of another person. Because murder is against the law, charges are typically brought against the person committing the crime by the state. Murder is determined by intent, meaning if a person intentionally kills another individual, they may be found guilty of murder. A murder conviction will likely result in prison time and, in some cases, even the death penalty. Murder is a type of wrongful death.
Wrongful death occurs when a person dies as a result of the actions of an entity or individual. It can be the result of intent but may also result from negligent or careless acts or accidents. Wrongful death is not a criminal charge like murder, but instead is a civil action filed by the family on behalf of the victim. Penalties if found guilty of wrongful death are typically in the form of financial compensation to the estate or family of the deceased.
The Burden of Proof Between Wrongful Death and Murder
To convict someone of murder, the burden of proof is on the state to make the court believe that the defendant is 100 percent responsible for the death. They must also prove that there was the intent. With wrongful death cases, the plaintiff must also prove that the defendant was responsible for the death of their loved one. This proof, however, unlike 100 percent proof in a criminal case, must only be at least 51 percent chance. This is called preponderance of the evidence.
Murder Convictions and Wrongful Death
A conviction for murder can lead to a wrongful death lawsuit. It is very easy to prove the burden of proof in a wrongful death lawsuit when the defendant has already been convicted of murder. However, if a person is headed to prison, they may not have the financial compensation to be able to pay the money owed that results from a wrongful death lawsuit. So, unless they have enough assets before entering prison, a wrongful death suit may not result in the compensation you deserve.
Even if there was no murder conviction, you can still sue for wrongful death. Because the burden of proof is much lower for a wrongful death claim than murder, you may still be able to receive compensation.
How a Wrongful Death Attorney Can Help
Wrongful death and murder are two very different kinds of legal actions. If your loved one has died due to someone else’s negligence, whether intentional or not, you may be entitled to bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the responsible party and be compensated for their loss. The Chicago attorneys at Harvey L. Walner & Associates, Ltd. have over 75 years of experience handling wrongful death and other personal injury lawsuits. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and find out exactly what your legal options may be.