Saturday, February 22, 2020
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First Degree Murder


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Usage of first-degree murder cases by crime shows is widespread. And who is to blame? First-degree murder might be one of the most exciting types of crime. Who would want to watch some person embezzling money?

But what is it, legally? First-degree murder is classified under murder, which is classified under homicide. Furthermore, it is created by statute, or legislative law. To prove first-degree murder, the prosecution must prove both homicide and another element, usually in relation to the nature of the crime or the nature of the preparation.

Homicide is quite easy to prove. All it requires is that the victim is dead, and another person killed the victim, although not necessarily the defendant. The prosecution cannot prove homicide if, say, the victim was killed by a squirrel.

There are various ways the ‘other element’ can be proved. One of the ways is that the prosecution shows that the defendant had time to premediate, or time to decide to kill the victim. This time does not need to be lengthy; even just a few seconds can suffice. For example, if a defendant shoots the victim five times, first once, then with a brief pause, then four more times, a jury can find that that pause sufficed premeditation. A stronger case than premeditation is proof of actual consideration, showing that the defendant actually sat down and, “maturely and meaningfully reflected on the gravity of the killing…” [California Penal Code 189]. Other ways sufficing this ‘other element’ can be the mode of the killing. If the killing is by poisoning, bomb, torture or by lying in wait (essentially the defendant did not kill the victim instantly, on the dot. This can be considered premeditation), this may suffice for first-degree murder. A homicide may also be first-degree murder if it was committed during the carrying out of specific felonies, though they depend state to state. This carries into felony murder.

Capital punishment is sometimes an option for first-degree murder, however sometimes the separate crime of capital murder must be proved.

See if you can apply these rules. Is that character rightfully convicted or not?

Disclaimer:  This column is not an adequate or appropriate replacement or substitute for legal advice. The Northwest Youth Journal or any of its affiliates are void of any liability stemming from this article. Contact your lawyer for legal advice.

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