On the January 15, 2011 Pittsburgh Post Gazette front page (see article here) there was an article that Christina Korbe, who is accused of killing an FBI agent, will enter a guilty plea in her Federal case. Ms. Korbe is accused of murder in the 2008 shooting of FBI Special Agent Samuel Hicks. Anytime anyone is killed, especially a law enforcement officer, who is only doing his job, it is an absolute tragedy. Further, I know nothing about the guilt or innocence of the defendant, or what the evidence is in this particular case.

This case involved Ms. Korbe being inside her house when FBI agents came in to arrest her husband. Ms. Korbe said that she did not know they were FBI agents and that she fired a single shot at someone she believed was illegally entering her home. The shot resulted in the death of the FBI agent.

In the criminal law there are slam dunk cases and there are cases that could go either way. It seems like this would have been one of those cases. A jury could have a difficult time deciding whether Ms. Korbe was acting in self-defense or not. Legally it certainly is not a case without problems for both sides.

As the Post Gazette reported, Ms. Korbe is charged with murder of a federal officer, assault of a federal officer with a dangerous weapon, discharging a firearm in a violent crime, helping a felon to possess a weapon, 3 cocaine distribution offenses, carrying a firearm in relation to drug trafficking and possession of a firearm for an unlawful use. Therein lies the dilemma for any criminal defendant and/or their criminal attorney.

It is at least possible Ms. Korbe was acting in self-defense. It is at least possibleshe could have been found not guilty for that particular charge. However, it is likelythat she would have been convicted of one of those other charges that she was facing.

The problem for the defense attorney, and what keeps criminal defense attorneys up at night is this…win the main charge that your client is facing but still have your client go to jail for a long time based on their conviction on some secondary charges. What do you do and how do you advise a client in this situation?

I welcome anyone’s thoughts on this.