The Crime Of Murder

The U.S. Code defines murder
 as “the unlawful killing of a human being with malice aforethought.”
This Code separates murder into two categories: murder in 
the first degree and murder in the second degree. Murder may 
be charged as the lesser offense of manslaughter.

If
 charged with murder, the degree of seriousness is dependent 
upon the mindset of the person who committed the act.  Murder in the first degree includes every murder
 perpetrated by poison, lying in wait, or any other kind of 
willful, deliberate, malicious, and premeditated killing.

Murder in the first degree also includes killings committed 
in the perpetration, or the attempted perpetration of any 
arson, escape, kidnapping, treason, espionage, sabotage, aggravated
 sexual abuse or sexual abuse, burglary, or robbery. All other
murders are considered murder in the second degree. So if 
the killer lacked malice or did not premeditate his act, he 
is guilty of a lesser degree and may be guilty of manslaughter.

An 
accidental killing may be prosecuted as murder, though rare, if the act
 causing death was done with a reckless disregard for the safety 
of others. A drunk driver who causes a traffic accident resulting 
in death can, in many states, be prosecuted for manslaughter.

Depending
 on varying state criminal laws, those guilty of murder in
 the first degree may be sentenced to life in prison or death,
and those guilty of second degree murder can be imprisoned
 for any amount of years to life imprisonment.

Defenses 
to murder

A
 common defense to murder is self-defense. However, most state
s require that the force actually used to kill the other by
 the defendant was not more then the force reasonably necessary 
to fend off the actual threat of death.

A common mitigating
 defense to murder is that the defendant did not act with the specific intent 
to kill. Most often this means that the death was an accident 
or an act of ordinary carelessness. Another mitigating defense
 is some times called diminished capacity or killing in the 
heat of passion. This defense often attempts to prove that 
the defendant acted in the heat of passion such that the defendant could
 not reasonably control his actions under the circumstances.

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