Justifiable homicide occurs in those situations where the killer's
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Honors SUPA Forensics Types of Homicides Justifiable homicide occurs in those situations where the "killer's" actions are legal. For example, the state executioner who administers a lethal injection to a prisoner condemned to death does so without criminal intent. He willfully kills another person, but his actions are not criminal since he is carrying out the legal mandate of the state by virtue of the obligations of his office. Similarly, a police officer who kills an armed felon who points a gun at the officer is not guilty of a crime. He fulfills his legal mandated role of protecting the public by stopping the criminal, literally arresting the felon's criminal intent and actions. Yet another example of justifiable homicide occurs when an individual kills another in self-defense in an unprovoked confrontation where the killer, believing himself to be in imminent danger of death, had no other reasonable means of eluding his attacker. Excusable homicide occurs when a killing results from accidents or misfortunes stemming from legal actions or when the killer is found to be legally insane and thus not held responsible for the crime. An example of the first type could include a mother who prepares a dinner for her child who dies from an allergic reaction to its contents. While her willful action of preparing and serving the meal caused the child's death, the mother did not will the death of the child. The death is an accident, a tragic misfortune beyond the scope of criminality. Similarly, a driver who swerves on the road to avoid hitting an animal in his path is not guilty of murder if his passenger is killed as the car hits a tree on the side of the road. His legal actions created the scenario wherein a person died, but the death is accidental and hence excusable in the eyes of the law. Likewise, in the case of insanity, individuals who are found to be insane or mentally incompetent and unable to distinguish right from wrong cannot be tried, sentenced or executed since they are not legally responsible for their actions, nor are they capable of understanding police and court proceedings or assisting rationally in their own defense. A man who kills a stranger seated next to him on a bus because "voices in my head from God told me to kill him" and no other motive can be found would probably be judged legally insane at the time of the act and not subject to criminal prosecution. The act may be reprehensible but the actor may not be legally responsible for it. What constitutes legal insanity or legal mental retardation is of course controversial and subject to the different and often contradictory evaluations set forth by various state legislatures. In each of the following cases the actors have taken another's life but did so in either a justified manner or in an excusable fashion. The resultant deaths are not due to criminal acts or criminal intent, thus they are beyond the scope of criminology. Degree of Murder-Murder One. The legislative statutes of each state determine the degree of murder. Generally, murder in the first degree (Murder One), means that both premeditation and malice aforethought are present. The killer has thought out his act in a willful, deliberate manner before committing the murder. Murder in the first degree also includes those murders committed during the course of serious and dangerous felonies such as rape, kidnapping, arson, and robbery, and are commonly referred to as felony murders. A rapist who kills his victim in the course of rape would be prosecuted under a charge of murder in the first degree. Similarly, so would an arsonist who deliberately sets a dwelling on fire in which a firefighter is subsequently killed. The premeditation and malice aforethought, though not direct, are implied and many courts have allowed the charge of first degree murder against such assailants. Degree of Murder-Murder Two Murder in the second degree (Murder Two) refers to those cases where only malice aforethought exists, with no evidence of any real premeditation on the part of the killer. In most states all murders not classified as first-degree murders become second-degree murders. This category includes intentional murders, depraved indifference murders, and non-dangerous felony murders. Intentional murders refer to those homicides where the culprit intended to kill the victim but had not previously planned or contemplated the act. Thus a woman who kills her lover because he is Honors SUPA Forensics Types of Homicides leaving her for another woman, a man who kills an acquaintance in an argument over money, and a driver who shoots and kills another driver in a dispute over a parking space all constitute intentional murder. Depraved indifference murder is sometimes referred to as reckless homicide and means that the killer recklessly engaged in behavior that showed depraved indifference to the lives of other human beings. The killer's behavior is a gross deviation from normal social behavior. His actions must be inherently dangerous and represent a very high risk to the lives of others. Thus a motorist who purposely drives his car on the wrong side of the road while speeding and kills a pedestrian would be guilty of a depraved indifference murder, as would be a burglar who lights a paper torch to illuminate a basement in an occupied home he is burglarizing and knowingly leaves it there, eventually causing a fire that asphyxiates the home's occupants. In both instances the driver and the burglar displayed wanton, depraved indifference for the lives of others. Murders committed during felonies which in themselves are not inherently dangerous are also classified as second-degree murders. Thus a pickpocket who becomes involved in a struggle with his intended victim and kills the victim in the ensuing struggle would be charged with second-degree murder. The felony oflarceny-theft, which encompasses pickpocketing, is not an inherently dangerous, life-threatening type of crime. Consequently the resultant murder would not be judged as a first-degree homicide. Manslaughter Manslaughter is the unlawful killing of another without malice in the commission of an unlawful act.2 Manslaughter may be either voluntary or involuntary, but in either type there is no prior deliberation or premeditation on the part of the assailant, nor is there any rational intent to kill the victim. (1) Voluntary Manslaughter. Voluntary manslaughter occurs in a killing that takes place in the "heat of passion." The circumstances surrounding the killing generally mitigate but do not justify the killing. The killer must be so provoked that any other reasonable person in his or her shoes would lose control and act similarly.3 A typical case would occur when a spouse encounters his or her mate in the act of adultery and kills either one or both adulterers "in hot blood." Another would be an individual who, after a heated argument, is attacked by a patron in a bar and kills the attacker in the ensuing struggle. The killing took place under circumstances that rule out classic self-defense since the killer had"other options, such as leaving the scene before a fight began. Hence, this is not a classic justifiable homicide. 2) Involuntary Manslaughter. Involuntary manslaughter occurs when one person unintentionally and without malice kills another while engaging in behavior that consciously disregards a unjustifiable risk to the other person, endangering his or her life. The reckless conduct of manslaughter is different from second-degree murder recklessness; the former is not inherently dangerous to the lives of others; the reckless behavior of the latter is inherently dangerous and, in the terminology of the New York State Penal Law entails, "unmitigated wickedness, extreme inhumanity. . . exhibiting high degree ofwantonness."4 Typical examples of involuntary manslaughter would include: a motorist who consciously disregards traffic laws and operates the vehicle in a careless manner and in so doing kills a pedestrian; a parent who leaves young children unattended in an apartment who subsequently die in a fire. Both the motorist and the parent are guilty of involuntary manslaughter since both were negligent in their legal responsibility to either drive or supervise children properly.