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For other uses of the word "murder," see Murder (disambiguation).

Template:CrimLaw In law, murder is the crime of a human being causing the death of another human being, without lawful excuse, and with intent to kill or with an intent to cause grievous bodily harm. In most countries it is considered the most serious crime, and invokes the highest punishment available under the law.

Murder is both a legal and a moral term, that are not always coincident. A killing may not be legally classified as murder, but still morally considered by some as a murder. For example, critics claim that the death penalty morally counts as a murder.


[edit] Murder and other illegal killings

In most countries, if one person kills another person illegally, the killer might be charged with murder, or with some lesser offense, depending upon the circumstances:

  • Unintentionally caused deaths due to recklessness or negligence are treated in most countries as the lesser crime of involuntary manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide
  • Intentional killings without premeditation are sometimes charged as voluntary manslaughter rather than murder.
  • In many common law jurisdictions, a killer is not guilty of murder if the victim lives longer than a year and a day after the attack.
  • In some jurisdictions, killings under extreme provocation or duress are legally excused as justifiable homicide; see crime of passion
  • In the US, there are key differences between Homicide and Murder. Homicide is death caused by another person, such as through self-defense, or accidentally. Murder is death caused by another person through illegal means. All murders are homicides, but not all homicides are murders.

[edit] Legal, non-murder killings

Some cases of premeditated, intentional killing have lawful excuse and thus are not legally murder, or even crimes at all. In most countries this includes:

[edit] Mitigating circumstances

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 the killer was suffering from a condition that affected their judgement at the time. Depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and 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. In some jurisdictions, the verdict "not guilty by reason of insanity" is used in these cases, leading to the odd circumstance that a victim was murdered, but the killer is technically not a murderer under the law. 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. Killers who have successfully argued the insanity defense are usually assigned mandatory clinical treatment for many years, rather than prison.

[edit] Country-specific murder law

[edit] United Kingdom

About 850 murders per year (reported in 2000) are committed in the United Kingdom. This is low compared to the United States with 12,000. These are only raw numbers which do not take varying populations into account: a better perspective can be gained by comparing murders per year per hundred thousand population (1 in the UK, 4 in the USA, and 63 in Colombia - source).

In English law, homicide can be divided into several offences, including:

  • Murder - Killing of another person whilst having either the intention to kill (with "malice aforethought") or to cause grievous bodily harm.
  • Manslaughter - Unintentional and unlawful killing of another person.
  • Infanticide - Intentional killing of an infant under 1-year-old by a mother suffering from post-natal depression or other post-natal disturbance.
  • Causing death by dangerous driving (of a motor vehicle).

The difference between murder and manslaughter is based on intent. English Law also allows for the transfer of intent. For example, in the circumstances where a man fires a shotgun with the intent to kill person A, or at least maim them but the shot misses and kills an otherwise unconnected person B then the intent to kill transfers from person A to person B and a charge of murder would stand.

Causing death by dangerous driving was introduced because of the perceived difficulty of persuading juries - many of whom were drivers - to convict on a charge of manslaughter.

Most common law jurisdictions, such as British Commonwealth countries, do not allow for the defense of necessity. For example, 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 shipwrecked sailors 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.

Comparatively recent adaptions to the English law of murder include the abolition of the year and a day rule, and the proposed introduction of an less restrictive regime for corporate manslaughter.

[edit] Canada

Canada has about 550 murders per year, a number that is fluctuating. This is equivalent to numbers in most of the western world, except the U.S. which has triple the number per capita. The main methods of murder in Canada are shootings (30%), stabbings (30%), and beatings (22%).

Canada has four types of crime that can be considered murder:

  • first degree murder - the intentional killing of another person with premeditation, in the furtherance of another serious criminal offense (kidnapping, robbery, etc.), or the killing of a peace officer
  • second degree murder - the intentional killing of another person without premeditation (ie killing in the heat of the moment)
  • manslaughter - the killing of another person where there is no intent to kill
  • infanticide - the killing of an infant by a mother while still recovering from the birth, and the mother's mind is "disturbed"

(there are exceptions to the above - certain types of murder are always first degree murder, such as the killing of a peace officer, and certain types of killings are murder regardless of intent, such as a death resulting from sexual assault)

The maximum penalties for murder are:

  • first degree murder - mandatory life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for 25 years (can be paroled under the "faint hope clause" after 15 years imprisonment, but such a reduction is rarely given and is not available for multiple murders)
  • second degree murder - mandatory life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for 10-25 years (parole eligibility determined by the judge at sentencing) (exception: if the person had committed another murder in their past, parole eligibility is 25 years)
  • manslaughter - maximum life imprisonment; if firearm was used to commit the offence, the minimum penalty is 4 years' imprisonment
  • infanticide - maximum 5 years imprisonment
  • There is a clause where persons convicted of multiple murder, and deemed unable for rehabilitation, to be declared a 'dangerous offender' upon examination of doctors and psychiatrists (usually for sexually related murder). Persons declared as dangerous offenders have an undetermined prison sentence, although it usually means an increase of 10 years (possibly to 35 or more years).

For every murder in Canada there are about 1.5 attempted murders. Attempted murder carries the same consequences as murder itself; it is the intent, not the result, that determines the sentence.

About one in three Canadian murders are committed by a family member. One in eight is gang related. About 80% of murderers in Canada are caught within a year.

(All statistics are from the 2001 census)

[edit] 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. Approximately 16,000 cases of murder or nonnegligent homicide occur each year in the US according to official FBI crime statistics; among solved cases, almost half of murders are committed by a narrow social group of Black males age 17 to 50 (constituting less than 3% of general population). [1]

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 
a killing that is premeditated(thought about beforehand) murder, or murder which occurs after some degree of reflection by the murderer. This reflection can be years or less than a second. First degree murder is done with malice(intent to kill).
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".
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. This would in some cases include a death caused by drunk driving or someone dying as the result of an assault in which case the perpetrator didn't have the intent to kill.

In some other states, the definitions have been adjusted to reflect factors like perceived need for greater deterrence, 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.

[edit] 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 committing 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.

[edit] Capital murder

Capital murder is murder which is punishable by death. In 38 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 generally capital punishment and capital punishment in the United States.

[edit] Cultural references

In California, 187 is a well-known slang term for murder, and it often appears in music made in that state. The number refers to the relevant section of the California Penal Code.

[edit] Germany

In Germany the term Mord (murder) is officially used for the premeditated killing of another person:

  1. for pleasure, satisfaction of the sex drive, greed or other "low motives",
  2. insidiously (an unsuspecting victim) or cruelly, by means dangerous to the public (for example with a bomb),
  3. to cover up or facilitate another criminal offense.

A killing which is not a murder may be either Totschlag (manslaughter) or fahrlässige Tötung (negligent homicide). Also, if the death is not a forseeable consequence of an intended or not intended act of violence, it might be classified as Körperverletzung mit Todesfolge (injury resulting in death). The penalty for Mord is lifelong imprisonment, the penalty for Totschlag is five to fifteen years imprisonment.

[edit] The Netherlands

By Dutch law, murder (moord) is punishable by a prison sentence of up to twenty years, which is the longest prison sentence the law allows. Under special circumstances, such as multiple murders or prior convictions, a life sentence may be imposed. In addition to a prison sentence, the judge may sentence the suspect to TBS, or "terbeschikkingstelling", meaning detention in a psychiatric institution. TBS is imposed for a number of years (most often in relation to the severity of the crime) and thereafter prolonged if deemed necessary by a committee of psychiatrists. This can be done indefinitely, and has therefore been criticised as being a life sentence in disguise.

In 2003, 202 murders were committed in the Netherlands.

[edit] Finland

Finnish law calls the crime of causing the death of another human being "manslaughter" (tappo). The minimum sentence is eight years of imprisonment. Attempt is punishable. The crime of murder (murha) is defined as a manslaughter:

  • with a firm intent (i.e. it is planned), or
  • done in an especially brutal or cruel way, or
  • while endangering public safety severely, or
  • of a government official keeping the law and order.

The only sentence for murder is life in prison. However, the president can and usually will give a pardon (when requested) some time after 12 years. Involuntary confinement to a psychiatric institution may also result. It ends when the psychiatrist decides so, or when a court decrees it no longer necessary in a periodical review.

There is also the crime of "death" (surma), which is a "manslaughter" under mitigating circumstances, with the punishment of four to ten years. Involuntary manslaughter (kuolemantuottamus) has a maximum punishment of two years of prisonment or fine (see day fine).

[edit] Israel

Israel had 174 murders in 2004 (up from 135 in 1996 and down from 234 in 2001). Israel is a relatively safe country with a low crime rate even taking into account political crime, i.e. terrorism. 10 women were murdered by their male spouses in 2004 and 19 in 2003. Gangs are not considered a serious problem in Israel although there is underworld mafia activity. Because of the security situation in Israel (terrorist attacks) many people have gun licenses, own guns and carry them openly. Furthermore, Israeli soldiers usually carry rifles (including ammunition) on home leave. Notwithstanding or because of the high rate of gun ownership, the rate of gun related crime (e.g. armed robbery and shootings) is very low in Israel. Presumably, this is either because mandatory military service educates most Israelis about proper gun use, or because criminal are deterred by the real possibility of an armed victim.

There are 5 relevant types of homicide in Israel:

  1. Murder. The premeditated killing of a person or the intentional killing of a person whilst committing, preparing for, or escaping from any crime is murder. The mandatory punishment for this crime is life imprisonment. Life is usually commuted (clemency from the President) to 30 years from which a third can be deducted by the parole board for good behaviour. Terrorists are not usually granted pardons or parole other than as part of deals with terrorist organizations or foreign governments and in exchange for captured Israelis (or their bodies).
  2. Reduced sentenced murder. Where the murderer did not fully understand his actions because of mental defect (but not legal insanity or imbecility), or in circumstances close to self-defence, necessity or duress or where the murderer suffered from serious mental distress because of long-term abuse, the court can give a sentence of less than life.
  3. The deliberate killing of a person without premeditation (or the other circumstances of murder) is manslaughter for which the maximum sentence is 20 years.
  4. Negligent killing or vehicular killing. Maximum sentence is 3 years (minimum of 6 months for the driver).
  5. Infanticide where a woman killed her baby of less than 12 months and could show she was suffering from the effects of the birth or breast-feeding. Maximum sentence is 5 years.

[edit] Vikings (8th to 11th centuries)

The Viking culture had no concept of murder. If you killed someone, then it was up to you to pay the family fair compensation (weregild) for the labor lost by the member's death. If the perpetrator refused to pay weregild, it was up to the family of the slain to extract it from the perpetrator, or take his life.

The only other type of killing with consequences in Viking culture was "unjust killing', i.e., while the victim was sleeping, or if the victim's back was turned. While there were no more financial repercussions for this other than the normal rules of weregild, the killer in question suffered from a tremendous loss of trust.

[edit] Other uses of the word

The word "murder" is sometimes used colloquially to mean some forms of mistreatment, e.g. a bad singer "murdering" a song, or describing something difficult to handle as "absolute murder". Sometimes during sports play an opponent may tell his rival "I'm gonna murder you!", "I'm gonna kill you!", "I'm murdering you!" or "I'm killing you!".

A murder is also the name given to a flock of crows (see also Collective nouns for birds).

[edit] Murder demographics

Murder occurrences vary wildly among different countries and societies. In the Western world, murder rates in most countries have declined significantly during 20th century and are now between 1-3 cases per 100,000 people per year. Murder rates of Japan and Iceland are among the lowest in the world, around 0.5; rate of United States is highest among all developed countries, at 5.5 (2000). On the other hand, developing countries often have rates of 10-100 murders per 100,000 people per year.

Evolution of murder rates over time in different countries is often used by both supporters and opposers of capital punishment and gun control. Using properly filtered data, is possible to make the case for or against either of these issues. For example, one could look at murder rates in United States during 1950-2000 [2] and notice that those rates went up sharply shortly after a moratorium on death sentences was effectively imposed in late 1960's. This fact could be used to argue that capital punishment serves as a deterrent and, as such, it is morally justified. Capital punishment opposers would counter that United States have much higher murder rates than Canada and European Union countries, although all those countries have abolished death penalty. Gun control advocates could further point out that, unlike United States, many European countries disallow gun ownership by private citizens, etc. Overall, the global pattern is too complex and, on average, the influence of both these factors is probably insignificant.

It is also often claimed that murder rates are correlated with overall wealth of the population ( i.e. that murders happen more often in societies where larger percentage of people lives below the poverty level ). This claim is not supported by evidence. On the other hand, many researchers have observed significant correlation between murder rates and wealth distribution inequality, as measured by Gini coefficient.

In the Western World, nearly 90% of all murders are committed by males. There is a sharp peak in the age distribution of murderers between the ages of 17 and 30. People become increasingly uncommon to commit a murder as they age. Incidents of children and adolescents committing murders are extremely rare.

[edit] Documentary Films

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

cs:Vražda da:Mord de:Mord id:Pembunuhan it:Omicidio ja:殺人 fi:Murha no:Drap sv:Mord simple:Murder he:רצח nl:Moord pl:Morderstwo

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