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Police have arrested a man believed to have stabbed and killed one member of Nicki Minaj's tour crew and wounded another.
After a late night brawl in Philadelphia last month, two of Minaj's crew members were walking a bar employee to her car when they were attacked. De'Von Pickett, 29, was stabbed in his heart and stomach and died; a second crew member is still in the hospital with stab wounds to his back. The alleged attacker, Pierce Boykin, 31, faces numerous charges, including murder and attempted murder.
What will prosecutors need to prove in order to secure a conviction, and does Boykin have any possible defenses?
Elements of Murder
While reports say that Boykin was charged with murder, it is unclear whether Boykin was charged with first degree murder or second degree murder.
To prove first degree murder, prosecutors would have to show a willful and premeditated killing. To do this, they must prove that the accused intended to kill the victim and planned to do so ahead of time (though just a few seconds of premeditation can sometimes suffice).
To prove second degree murder, prosecutors would not have to show premeditation. Prosecutors would only need to prove that the killing was intentional. Prosecutors could also prove second degree murder if the accused acted in a dangerous way, with careless disregard of human life.
If prosecutors can't prove any of the required elements for murder, Boykin could go free. However, if the prosecutors do prove the elements of murder, Boykin could try to argue self-defense.
Self-defense can often be argued to excuse an otherwise illegal use of force against another person. It's almost common sense: If someone attacks you, you should be able to hit back to protect yourself, right? However, self defense only excuses a response proportional to the original attack. For example, if you shoot somebody with a gun after they punched you with a fist, the response is likely to be deemed disproportionate, and would not be considered self defense.
It's also possible Boykin could try to claim that he didn't intend to kill the men when he allegedly stabbed them. But the case has just begun, and it will be interesting to see whether Boykin's defense lawyers can withstand prosecutors' attempts to prove first or second degree murder.