Murder: an Overview

Murder takes place when one human being unlawfully kills another human being. See Homicide. The accurate legal meaning of murder varies by jurisdiction. Most states compare different degrees of murder. Some other states base their murder laws on the Model Penal Code.

The killing of another human being under conditions specifically covered in law. In the U.S., special statutory meanings include murder committed with malice aforethought, characterized by consideration or premeditation or occurring during the commission of another major criminal offense, as robbery or arson (first-degree murder) and murder by intent however without consideration or premeditation (second-degree murder).

First Degree Murder: Definition.

In the majority of states, first-degree murder is defined as an unlawful killing that is both willful and premeditated, suggesting that it was committed after preparing or “waiting” for the victim.

For instance, Dan comes home to discover his wife in bed with Victor. Three days later, Dan waits behind a tree near Victor’s front door. When Victor comes out of the house, Dan shoots and kills him.

A lot of states also stick to a legal concept known as the “felony murder guideline,” under which a person commits first-degree murder if any death (even an accidental one) results from the commission of particular violent felonies– such as arson, break-in, kidnapping, rape, and break-in.

As an example, Dan and Connie rob Victor’s liquor store, but as they are leaving, Victor shoots and kills Dan. Under the felony murder policy, Connie can be accused of first-degree murder for Dan’s death even though neither of the burglars actually did the killing.

The Aspects of Murder in the First Degree.

State laws categorizing murders into initially, 2nd and possibly third degrees typically require that first degree murders consist of three standard elements: willfulness, consideration and premeditation. Some states likewise require “malice aforethought” as an aspect, though sates vary about how malice needs to be shown and whether this is a different requirement from willful, deliberate and premeditated taking of human life. Most states also enumerate specific type of killings as first degree murders without need to show intent, consideration and premeditation.

Not all states break murder into degrees. In some locations, the leading level murder criminal offense is called by another name, such as “capital murder.”.

Background: Common Law Murder.

At common law, murder was defined as eliminating another human being with malice aforethought. Malice aforethought is a legal term of art, that incorporates the following types of murder:.

Intent-to-kill murder.

Grievous-bodily-harm murder – Killing somebody in an attack meant to cause them severe harm. As an example, if a person fatally stabbed someone, even if she just planned to wound her victim, she might still be executed.

Felony-murder – Eliminating somebody while in the process of committing a felony. Keep in mind that at common law, there were couple of felonies, and all lugged the death penalty. For example, at common law, burglary was a felony. So if a burglar accidentally killed someone throughout a robbery, the burglar could be performed.

Depraved heart murder – Eliminating somebody in a manner that demonstrates a callous neglect for the value of human life. For example, if an individual deliberately fires a gun into a congested space, and somebody passes away, the person could be founded guilty of base heart murder.

These meanings are valuable since they inform subsequent reforms of American Criminal Law.