M is for Murder (First, Second and Third!)

It’s time to sharpen your knives and start carving the 13th letter of the alphabet on the Crime Fiction Alphabet pumpkin. If you are unfamiliar with CFA, it is a challenge run by Kerrie over at Mysteries in Paradise, so head on there and sign up, or click on some links and read what others have to say. This is my second time on this merry-go-round and I have chosen to focus on topics related to crime fiction rather than books and/or authors.

M is for Murder

In the United States and in certain other jurisdictions, Murder is divided into degrees. What follows is a simplified description of the various degrees in the U. S.

  • First Degree Murder – This includes all murders that are willful and premeditated including poisoning, lying in wait. A murder committed during the execution of a felony crime is also considered first degree murder in some jurisdictions.
  • Second Degree Murder – Murders that are not premeditated but occur in the heat of the moment. These exclude murders due to extenuating circumstances or temporary insanity which fall under the next category. An example of second degree murder would be death during a bar fight.
  • Third Degree Murder – Also referred to as voluntary manslaughter. This includes cases of second degree murder that occurs in a fit of passion, ie., “cause a reasonable person to become emotionally or mentally disturbed.”
  • Involuntary Manslaughter – Finally, if there was no intention to cause and the death was due to an unintentional or negligent act (like drunk driving), the charge is one of involuntary manslaughter.

This is however only a general overview. States often have their own specific interpretations of these degrees.


2 responses »

  1. Margot Kinberg

    Peter – it is interesting how society has determined that there are different degrees of murder. I suppose it makes sense when you consider the whole issue of premeditation. This is a really interesting post, for which thanks.

    • Peter Reynard

      Margot, you’re so right. And it will interesting to see how these laws and degrees change as the years pass.


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