n. the killing of a human being by a sane person, with intent, malice aforethought (prior intention to kill the particular victim or anyone who gets in the way), and with no legal excuse or authority. In those clear circumstances, this is first degree murder. By statute many states make killings in which there is torture, movement of the person (kidnapping) before the killing, as an incident to another crime (as during a hold-up or rape), and the death of a police officer or prison guard all first degree murders with or without premeditation, and with malice presumed. Second degree murder is such a killing without premeditation, as in the heat of passion or in a sudden quarrel or fight. Malice in second degree murder may be implied from a death due to the reckless lack of concern for the lifeothers (such as firing a gun into a crowd, or bashing someone with any deadly weapon). Depending on the circumstances and state laws, murder in the first or second degree maybe chargeable to a person who did not actually kill, but was involved in a crime with a partner who actually did the killing or someone died as the result of the crime. (Example: In a liquor store stick-up in which the clerk shoots back at the hold-up man and kills a bystander, the armed robber can be convicted of at least second degree murder. To be murder the victim must die within a year of the attack. Death of an unborn child who is "quick" (fetus is moving) can be murder, provided there was premeditation, malice, and no legal authority. Thus, abortion is not murder under the law. (Example: Jack Violent shoots his pregnant girlfriend, killing the fetus). Manslaughter, both voluntary and involuntary, lacks the element of malice aforethought. (See: manslaughter, first degree murder, second degree murder, homicide, malice aforethought, premeditation)
Copyright © 1981-2005 by Gerald N. Hill and Kathleen T. Hill. All Right reserved.