This is “End-of-Chapter Material”, section 9.7 from the book Introduction to Criminal Law (v. 1.0).
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Homicide is the killing of one human being by another. Criminal homicide is either murder or manslaughter. Some states and the federal government also criminalize the killing of a fetus. Suicide is usually not criminal, although assisted suicide could be.
Many jurisdictions follow the common law and define murder as the killing of a victim with malice aforethought. Malice can be either a specific intent to kill, which is express malice, or the intent to do serious bodily injury, or depraved heart, which is implied malice. The Model Penal Code defines murder intent as purposely, knowingly, or recklessly under circumstances indicating extreme indifference to life. A killing by the transmission of AIDS can either be murder, if the transmission is deliberate, or manslaughter, if the transmission is inadvertent.
Most jurisdictions divide murder into degrees of seriousness. First-degree murder is the most serious, can merit the death penalty in certain jurisdictions, and generally includes premeditated murder, murder by a specified means, and serious felony murders. Premeditated murder is typically a killing supported by specific intent to kill combined with cool reflection and planning. Murder by a specified means is killing with a specific heinous method. Felony murder is a homicide that occurs during the commission or attempted commission of a felony. Felony murder lacks murder intent; the defendant need only possess the intent required for the felony. Felony murder can be graded as first, second, or third degree, depending on the felony. The Model Penal Code classifies all murders as first-degree felonies.
Second-degree murder is often defined as any murder that is not first degree. Typically, second-degree murder intent is the intent to inflict serious bodily injury or a depraved heart intent. Second-degree murder is usually graded lower than first-degree murder but higher than manslaughter.
In many jurisdictions, manslaughter is an unlawful killing without murder intent. Most jurisdictions divide manslaughter into voluntary and involuntary. The Model Penal Code classifies all manslaughters as felonies of the second degree. Voluntary manslaughter is a killing that occurs during a heat of passion inspired by adequate provocation from the victim, negating murder intent. Involuntary manslaughter can be a killing that occurs during the commission or attempted commission of a misdemeanor or a reckless or negligent killing, depending on the jurisdiction. Involuntary manslaughter can also be vehicular manslaughter when the killing occurs while driving a vehicle recklessly, negligently, or under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The Model Penal Code classifies negligent killings as negligent homicide and a felony of the third degree.
Read the prompt and then decide whether you would affirm or reverse the lower court. Review the case and see how the judges or justices actually ruled. Check your answers using the answer key at the end of the chapter.
From Section 9.2 "Murder"
The Tennessee Supreme Court held that the defendant’s failure to make a timely police report and concealment of the murder weapon did not prove that the murder was premeditated. The Court stated the following:
One who has recently killed another person recklessly, passionately, or even negligently may be extremely hesitant to reveal the details of the crime, and yet not be guilty of first-degree murder…One who kills another in a passionate rage may dispose of the weapon when reason returns just as readily as the cool, dispassionate killer.State v. West, 844 S.W. 2d 144, 147 (1992), accessed July 30, 2010, http://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=3481778471457660977&hl=en&as_sdt=2002&as_vis=1.