Criminal Law 310A
Instructor Gary LoGalbo
April 24, 2014
Crimes of Murder
In todays society murder can be identified in many different categories, it can be from a simple mistake to an atrocious crime against a person. I will be discussing the crimes of murder, degrees of murder and the difference between voluntary and involuntary manslaughter. Killing of another person can be the most vicious crime one can commit; yet people still choose to kill. The social norm is that people don’t just kill people for fun there is always some sort of motive behind it.
What is murder? The common law that easily divides homicides into two categories is murder and manslaughter. Murder can happen in any sort of manner. It can come from a simple act of self-defense to a criminal homicide against a person. The elements that are included in murder are actus reus the act of killing, mens rea the intentional knowing of the killing, causation, death, and if there is any attendant circumstances. Murder comes with different degrees as it is given by the circumstance of the taking of life. First-degree murder, “consist of premeditated, deliberate intent to kill murders, and felony murders; the only crime today in which the death penalty can be imposed”. Criminal Law Chapter 9 (J. Samaha) This definition states that the meaning of murder in the first degree is done intentionally with the malice of doing harm to another person. First-degree murder is the most vicious crime a human being can commit against another person. For example Dan comes home to find 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.
Second-degree murder is, “the intentional killing; by extremely reckless conduct, intent to cause serious bodily harm, included with the deadly weapon doctrine”. (Second Degree Murder, Criminal Find Law 2013) This states essential elements of second-degree murder differ from those of first-degree murder. The criminal act for both crimes is the same the killing of another person. What separates the two is the perpetrator's mental state at the time of the killing. In other words, the killer made a plan to kill the victim and then carried that plan out. Second-degree murder does not require premeditation for the act to be committed. The main difference between first and second-degree murder is the intent. First-degree murder is an aggravated form of murder. It is a deliberate intent to take life. Second-degree murder is considered to be unplanned.
This brings me to the Felony Murder Rule; this rule applies when an unintentional death or deaths occur during the commission of when some felonies are committed. At common law, “the "felony murder crimes" are burglary, arson, rape, robbery, and kidnapping”. (Felony Murder Rule, Cornell University Law School 2012) The felony murder rule implies that it is not just the killing of another person that sets the act, but what is occurring at the time of the murder and what specific event is taking place. The felony murder rule elements are actus reus, mens rea, and circumstance of the crime. In other words if death occurs from any felony being committed this automatically falls under the felony murder rule. I believe that if the criminal knows he is committing a felony and still decides to commit a murder on top of that felony they should be punished more automatically. It also should automatically set precedent that any one involved in the crime gets charged with the crime. For example Tom and Connie rob Victor's liquor store, but as they are fleeing, Victor shoots and kills Tom. Under the felony murder rule, Connie can be charged with first-degree murder for Tom's death even though neither of the robbers actually did the killing.
When it comes to manslaughter there are two types voluntary and involuntary manslaughter. Manslaughter in general term for the killing of a human being, in a manner considered by law as less culpable than murder. This law varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and how it is implied. Voluntary manslaughter is when a person suddenly and intentionally kills another person in the heat of anger following adequate provocation to include all elements of the crime. “If upon a sudden quarrel two persons fight, and one of them kills the other this becomes voluntary manslaughter”. Criminal Law Chapter 9 (J. Samaha) The author is stating that if one person has caused death to another after adequate provocation it automatically becomes voluntary manslaughter. Involuntary manslaughter is an unintentional killing by a voluntary act or omission. The elements of involuntary manslaughter include the same actus reus, mens reas and the circumstance in which the crime occurred. In other words recklessness and criminal negligence is involved with most of the involuntary manslaughter elements. For example Alex comes home to find his wife in bed with Roger. Distraught, Alex heads to a local bar to drown his sorrows. After having five drinks, Alex jumps into his car and drives down the street at twice the posted speed limit, accidentally hitting and killing a pedestrian. This constitutes involuntary manslaughter.
When it comes to vehicular manslaughter this usually falls under involuntary manslaughter. The elements in this crime are if there is a vehicle involved. An accident that could have been avoided due to negligence results in vehicular manslaughter. “Death of a passenger, including a loved one or friend, can be vehicular manslaughter if due to illegal driving.” This article clearly states that one can result at fault for the common negligence of driving while committing a crime. An example is a car was racing another car on the street and one car lost control and hit an innocent by standard, the driver of the car that hit the victim is automatically in fault of committing vehicular manslaughter.
In conclusion the clear facts that separate the differences between murder and manslaughter are clear. Murder holds two degrees in which one can be charged. In my opinion murder should be just that murder. It shouldn’t matter how the murder was committed, it should just matter that it was committed. when it comes to manslaughter now there’s a whole new dilemma. After analyzing all the facts and elements required to commit the separate crimes in manslaughter I have came to a conclusion that the differences in voluntary and involuntary manslaughter was that the person committed the crime with the knowing and not knowing of negligence. My opinion on vehicular manslaughter is clear and short. A vehicular manslaughter is still a homicide and should be treated as one, the person still killed an innocent person and should pay retribution for doing so. Overall separating all the crimes that eventually end up with death by mankind is the issue in society.
Felony murder rule. (2012, June 3). Retrieved April 22, 2014, from http://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/felony_murder_rule Hill, G. (n.d.). Legal Dictionary - Law.com. Retrieved April 22, 2014, from http://dictionary.law.com/Default.aspx?selected=2212 Samaha, J. (n.d.). Chapter 9, crimes against persons. In Criminal Law (11th ed., pp. 299-352). University of Minnesota. Second Degree Murder. (2013, July 1). Retrieved April 23, 2014, from http://criminal.findlaw.com/criminal-charges/second-degree-murder-overview.html