Tim Eckerman & Associates
2700 Patriot Blvd., Suite 250
Glenview, Illinois 60026
Offices also in downtown Chicago at Millennium Park Plaza on Michigan Ave. at Randolph
Free Consultations 24/7Call Now - 312-540-0451
Murder is the crime of causing the death of another human being, without lawful excuse, and with intent to kill them, or with intent to cause them grievous bodily harm. When an illegal death is not caused intentionally, but is caused by recklessness or negligence (or there is some defense, such asinsanity or diminished capacity), the crime committed may be referred to as manslaughter orcriminally negligent homicide, which is considered to be less serious than murder. In the United States, manslaughter is often broken into two categories: involuntary manslaughter and voluntary manslaughter.
A difficult issue in defining murder is what counts as causing death. It is impossible to give a precise definition of this, but some legal principles have been developed to help. For example, many common law jurisdictions abide by the year and a day rule, which provides that one is to be held responsible for a person's death only if they die within a year and a day of the act. Thus, if you seriously injured someone, and they died from their injuries within a year and a day, you would be guilty of murder; but you would not be guilty if they died from their injuries after a year and a day had passed.
It is not murder to kill someone with lawful excuse; lawful excuses include killing enemy combatants in time of war (but not after they have surrendered), killing a person who poses an immediate threat to the lives of oneself or others (i.e., in self-defence), and executing a person in accordance with a sentence of death (in those jurisdictions which use capital punishment). Sometimes extreme provocation or duress can justify killing another as well. These cases of killing are called justifiable homicide.
Under English law (and the law of other mostly Commonwealth countries, such as Australia, which pay close heed to the decisions of British courts), it is murder to kill another human being for food, even if without doing so one would die of starvation. This originated in a case of four shipwreckedsailors cast adrift off the coast of South Africa in the 1880s; two of the sailors conspired to kill one of the other sailors (a sick cabin boy), and having killed him ate his flesh to survive: R v Dudley and Stevens (1884) 14 QBD 273. Also, most common law jurisdictions do not allow for the defense ofnecessity. Comparatively recent adaptions to the English law of murder include the abolition of theyear and a day rule.
Most countries allow conditions that "affect the balance of the mind" to be regarded as mitigating circumstances against murder. This means that a person may be found guilty of "manslaughter on the basis of diminished responsibility" rather than murder, if it can be proved that they were suffering from a condition that affected their judgement at the time. Depression, post-traumatic stress disorderand medication side-effects are examples of conditions that may be taken into account when assessing responsibility. A somewhat different defense is insanity, which is almost exclusively used in cases of psychosis such as that caused by schizophrenia. See also crime of passion.
Also, some countries, such as Canada, Italy, the United Kingdom and Australia, allow post-partum depression, or 'baby-blues', as a defense against murder of a child by a mother, provided that a child is less than a year old.
The United States
In the United States, murder, or "homicide", is normally a crime only under state law, and a murder suspect will be arrested and held by local officials and tried in a local court on behalf of the state. For murders that are federal crimes (e.g. a killing of a federal official or on federal property), the trial would occur in a federal court.
Traditionally, and still in some states, the following terminology is used:
First-degree murder (or murder in the first degree, or colloquially, murder one) refers to premeditated murder, or murder which occurs after some degree of reflection by the murderer. This reflection can be years or less than a second.
Second-degree murder or voluntary manslaughter refers to
murder done without thought in the heat of the moment, or in some states after "adequate provocation", or Third-degree murder, also known as manslaughter,
occurs without the specific intent to kill, but usually after an act of criminal negligence or some other act resulting in a person's death.
In some other states, the definitions have been adjusted to reflect factors like perceived need for greater deterrancy, rather than those usual distinctions. For instance, the murder of a police officer, or any murder committed while serving a life sentence, is in some states a first-degree murder regardless of further circumstances.
Felony murder statutes
Many jurisdictions in the United States have also adopted felony murder statutes, according to which anyone who commits a serious crime (a felony), during which a person dies, is guilty of murder. This applies even if one does not personally cause the person's death. For example, a driver for an armed robbery can be convicted of murder if one of the robbers killed someone in the process of the robbery, even though the driver was not present at and did not expect the killing. In a few cases, some robbers have been found guilty of felony murder for the deaths of their accomplices.
Capital murder is murder which is punishable by death. In 38 of the United States, and the federal government itself, there are laws allowing capital punishment for this crime. Depending on the state, a murder may qualify as "capital murder" if (a) the person murdered was of a special class, such as a police officer; (b) "special circumstances" occurred in the crime, such as multiple murder, the use of poison, or "lying in wait" in order to murder the victim. Capital murder is quite rare in the United States compared to other murder convictions, but it has generated tremendous public debate. See generallycapital punishment and capital punishment in the United States.
Visit Wikipedia to further review or edit the terminology for this word.
Tim Eckerman is an experienced, aggressive, and successful trial lawyer, who concentrates in cases involving Personal Injury and Criminal Defense.
For the quickest response to your legal needs, please call Tim Eckerman at 312-540-0451, and/or fill out the Quick Contact Request form below.
Quick Contact Request
|The viewing of any part of the content of this website does not establish an attorney/client relationship between Tim Eckerman & Associates and the viewer, and no such relationship is implied or should be inferred. Such a relationship can only begin with a contract that is mutually agreed upon and signed by both the attorney and the client. Further, the forwarding by e-mail of any information to the firm by any viewer of the website does not constitute the establishment of an attorney/client relationship. Visitors are discouraged from sending sensitive information through e-mail, due to the insecure nature of e-mail communication.