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Murder or Manslaughter

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Murder or Manslaughter
Suzanne Feins
Saint Leo University

Murder or Manslaughter
Death is a pretty routine part of life. How we die, however can play a role in how it may impact others lives. Some people die of old age, whereas other people will die from medical issues. When a person is taken from us by accident or on purpose, the court system(s) will seek justice for the victim. There are different levels of punishment for the people who take another person's life.
One level of punishment in our court system is called first degree murder. First degree murder is considered the most heinous of acts. In order to convict the accused of first degree murder, the court must prove it was pre-mediated. This means the "murderers" are considered to have planned the event (Blinn, 1950). This is considered when someone is waiting on another person to arrive home to kill them or if someone was to poison the victim. Another way a person may be guilty of first degree murder is if a person dies a result of a violent act that was commit such as rape, robbery arson or burglary. Most cases are trial by a jury and depending on the states, it could sentence a person to spend life in prison or it could mean the death penalty. People who are convicted of first degree murder are sent to a maximum prison due to the nature of their crime. The next level of punishment we have is called second degree murder. Second degree murder is slightly different. Granted there still was a murder, but there was no plan to go by. These murders are known as the "crime of passion" (Schmalleger, 2012). This means the person had no plan to kill somebody until they heard or seen something and acted out a murder right then and there due to emotional distress. One way a person can be charged with second degree murder is if it was provoked. For example, Joe walks into his son's room and finds Billy, his brother-in-law molesting his son; Joe snaps and wants to kill Billy therefore beats Billy to death. Joe can be charged with second degree murder due to the fact the murder took place immediately after discovering his son being molested and he was acting out of pure emotion. Joe did not plan to kill Billy, but due to extensive circumstances he can still be charged with second degree murder even if the situation seemed right for what the father had done to protect his son. Another common way second degree murder is addressed, is when a felony is being committed and a death happens as a result of it. A person who is charged with second degree murder can be sent to a maximum or minimum prison depending on the crime. Every states has its own sentencing. Most people who are charged with second degree murder will end up on parole after their jail time sentence is up.
Third degree murder is also known as manslaughter in some states. The main difference between murder and manslaughter is "malice aforethought", which means the intent to kill (Cole, Smith, & Dejong, 2013). Murder requires malice aforethought but manslaughter doesn't. There are two different types of manslaughter, voluntary and involuntary. The most commonly used example for voluntary man slaughter would be a husband finding his wife in bed with another man. The husbands now wants to hurt the man in bed with his wife. The husband kills his wife's lover, but it was due to the event of finding her in bed with another man. The emotional distress in that situation is blamed for the homicide. It was not planned therefore, murder wouldn't be a correct term to use. Involuntary manslaughter would be a homicide in where someone died at the hands of another person but there isn't a intent or reason. For example, an intoxicated Kevin decides to get behind the wheel of a car and drive. While driving under the influences, he runs over a child crossing the street and the child dies. Kevin had no intention to kill or harm this child. This tragically is a result of Kevin careless disregard for the law. Kevin can be held accountable for his negligence and could be charged with involuntary manslaughter. The states have their own laws when it comes to sentencing a person charged with voluntary and involuntary manslaughter. Justifiable homicide is a category all its own. Justifiable homicide is also known as a killing done in self defense (Cole et al., 2013). This type of homicide is legal. It just means that a person is in direct danger and the only way to survive this situation is with deadly force. If someone breaks into your home and puts a knife to your neck, and you can use deadly force to protect yourself. You must be in harm's way in order for the courts to see this as a justifiable homicide. There is no jail time for this type of homicide, but there will be a investigation to rule out murder and manslaughter.
As normal as death is, it is never easy on family or friends. When a family member or friend is taken by the hands of another person, they will seek to the courts to serve them justice. Whether it's first degree, second degree murder or manslaughter, whoever is responsible will pay for the crime they committed.

Effects on the criminal justice system Classifying the different types of homicides plays a huge role in the criminal justice system. It is only fair that the court system has different degree of murder and voluntary/involuntary manslaughter. The different classes can affect on which jail the convicted would go to. The more violent crimes would go to a more secure prison than those who crimes were less violent. The different classes also have different sentencing. The more heinous the crime the longer the sentence. It has a huge affect on society as a whole. Was justice served? Society does not need a person who can cold heartily plan a homicide out walking the streets. Another effect it has on the criminal justice system would be the courts. Depending on how the crime was committed it may take a long time to go to court. This can be very costly to everyone involved in the case. A expert witness could cost a person a couple of thousand dollars and could mean the difference between a manslaughter or a Justifiable homicide.

Blinn, K. W. (1950). FIRST DEGREE MURDER--A WORKABLE DEFINITION. Journal Of Criminal Law & Criminology (08852731), 40(6), 729-735
Cole, G. F., Smith, C. E., & Dejong, C. (2013). The American System of Criminal Justice (13 ed.). Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning.
Schmalleger, F. (2012). Criminology today An integrative introduction (6 ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education .

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