Murder occurs when one human being unlawfully kills another human being. This is also known as homicide. The precise legal definition of murder varies by jurisdiction. Most states distinguish between different degrees of murder. Some other states base their murder laws on the Model Penal Code.
Background: Common Law Murder
At common law, murder was defined as killing another human being with malice aforethought. Malice aforethought is a legal term of art, that encompasses the following types of murder:
- "Intent-to-kill murder"
- "Grievous-bodily-harm murder" - Killing someone in an attack intended to cause them grievous bodily harm. For example, if the defendant fatally stabbed the victom, even if the defendant only intended to wound the victim, the defendant would still be liable for murder.
- "Felony-Murder" - Killing someone while in the process of committing a felony. Note that at common law, there were few felonies, and all carried the death penalty. For example, at common law, robbery was a felony. So if a robber accidentally killed someone during a robbery, the robber could be executed.
- "Depraved heart murder" - Killing someone in a way that demonstrates a callous disregard for the value of human life. For example, if a person intentionally fires a gun into a crowded room, and someone dies, the person could be convicted of depraved heart murder.
These definitions are valuable because they inform subsequent reforms of American murder law.
If you've been accused of or charged with this felony and you are seeking criminal defense counsel, contact George E. Miller, Attorney at Law of Eau Claire. Our attorney is committed to thoroughly reviewing your case and ensuring your rights are protected. George E. Miller, Attorney at Law is capable of handling your case and ensuring the best outcome.