Last week , a 20-year-old man was convicted of second degree murder in Oklahoma County after fatally shooting a rival in a Wal-Mart parking lot, and a 21-year-old woman was ordered to stand trial on second degree murder charges in Bryan County for her alleged role in the death of a man who reneged on a drug deal.
First degree murder, second degree murder, first degree manslaughter, voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, negligent homicide, and justifiable homicide are all terms that refer to the taking of another person's life.
Many people hear these terms but do not understand how courts differentiate between these different types of homicide. For those accused or facing a murder charge, a lawyer familiar with Oklahoma law can explain the precise nature of the charge and the potential penalties.
Among the most commonly charged types of homicide in Oklahoma are first degree murder, second degree murder, and first degree manslaughter. Murder in the First Degree First degree murder is the most serious homicide charge. In order to successfully convict a defendant of first degree murder, a prosecutor must prove one of the three following conditions:
- The murder occurred with "malice aforethought," meaning it was premeditated and planned, and the defendant intended to kill the victim.
- The death occurred during the commission of a felony. In this type of homicide, the prosecution does not need to demonstrate that the victim's death was intentional. The homicide victim may be either the victim of the initial felony or may even be a perpetrator of the crime and a cohort of the murder defendant.
- The death occurred as a result of child abuse. If a child under the age of 18 dies as a result of the defendant's abuse or as a result of the defendant's willful permission of abuse, the defendant is charged with first degree murder. The prosecution does not need to prove that the death was intentional, only that it was caused by the abuse.
In some cases, a skilled criminal defense lawyer may be able to negotiate a first degree murder charge to the lesser charge of second degree murder. Second degree murder does not hold to the theory of "malice aforethought," meaning that murder in the second degree did not result from a premeditated act. Second degree murder must meet one of two conditions:
- A death occurred as the result of the imminently dangerous conduct of the perpetrator. In this case, a defendant's depraved mind and/or extreme disregard for human life caused the death of another.
- A death occurred during the commission of a felony that does not serve as the basis for a first degree murder charge.
- The victim's death occurred during the defendant's commission of a misdemeanor (for example, first degree manslaughter is a common charge in a fatal DUI accident).
- The defendant committed the murder in the "heat of passion."
- The defendant caused the unjustifiable death of another while resisting a criminal intent.
Justifiable homicide is not a criminal offense; rather, it is the protection and defense of one's life and personal safety. If you or someone you love is facing a homicide charge in Oklahoma County, it is important to find an experienced criminal law firm as soon as possible. A skillful legal team may be able to successfully negotiate a lesser charge or may be able to win an acquittal at trial. Consult with a lawyer for a full explanation of the charge against you, possible penalties you face if convicted, and possible defense strategies.