Definition of murder
- (RP) IPA: /ˈmɜːdə/, SAMPA: /"m3:d@/
- (US) IPA: /ˈmɝdɚ/, SAMPA: /"m3`d@`/
- Audio (US) [?]
- Rhymes: -ɜː(r)də(r)
murder (plural murders)
- (countable) An act of deliberate killing of another human being.
There have been ten unsolved murders this year alone.
- (uncountable) (law) The crime of deliberate killing.
The defendant was charged with murder.
- Adjectives often applied to "murder": attempted, unsolved, brutal, double, triple, horrible, terrible, heinous, hideous, atrocious.
murder (third-person singular simple present murders, present participle murdering, simple past and past participle murdered)
- To deliberately kill (a person or persons).
The woman found dead in her kitchen was murdered by her husband.
- (deliberately kill): assassinate, kill, massacre, slaughter
Murder is the unlawful killing of another human being with "malice aforethought", and generally this state of mind distinguishes murder from other forms of unlawful homicide (such as manslaughter). As the loss of a human being inflicts enormous grief upon the individuals close to the victim, as well as the fact that the commission of a murder is highly detrimental to the good order within society, most societies both present and in antiquity have considered it a most serious crime worthy of the harshest of punishment. In most countries, a person convicted of murder is typically given a long prison sentence, possibly a life sentence where permitted, and in some countries, the death penalty may be imposed for such an act - though this practice is becoming less common. In most countries, there is no statute of limitations for murder (no time limit for prosecuting someone for murder). A person who commits murder is called a murderer.
Legal analysis of murder
William Blackstone (citing Edward Coke), in his Commentaries on the Laws of England set out the common law definition of murder, which by this definition occurs
when a person, of sound memory and discretion, unlawfully kills any reasonable creature in being and under the king's peace, with malice aforethought, either express or implied.
The elements of common law murder are:
- of a human being
- with malice aforethought.
The killing - At common law life ended with cardiopulmonary arrest - the total and permanent cessation of blood circulation and respiration. With advances in medical technology courts have adopted irreversible cessation of all brain function as marking the end of life.
of a human being - This element presents the issue of when life begins. At common law a fetus was not a human being. Life began when the fetus passed through the birth canal and took its first breath.
by another human being - at early common law suicide was considered murder. The requirement that the person killed be someone other than the perpetrator excluded suicide from the definition of murder.
with malice aforethought - originally malice aforethought carried its everyday meaning-a deliberate and premeditated killing of another motivated by ill will. Murder necessarily required that an appreciable time pass between the formation and execution of the intent to kill. The courts broadened the scope of murder by eliminating the requirement of actual premeditation and deliberation as well as true malice. All that was required for malice aforethought to exist is that the perpetrator act with one of the four states of mind that constitutes "malice."
The four states of mind recognized as constituting "malice" are:
- Intent to kill,
- Intent to inflict grievous bodily harm short of death,
- Reckless indifference to an unjustifiably high risk to human life (sometimes described as an "abandoned and malignant heart"), or
- Intent to commit a dangerous felony (the "felony-murder" doctrine).
Under state of mind (i), intent to kill, the deadly weapon rule applies. Thus, if the defendant intentionally uses a deadly weapon or instrument against the victim, such use authorizes a permissive inference of intent to kill. In other words, "intent follows the bullet." Examples of deadly weapons and instruments include but are not limited to guns, knives, deadly toxins or chemicals or gases and even vehicles when intentionally used to harm a victim.
Under state of mind (iii), an "abandoned and malignant heart", the killing must result from defendant's conduct involving a reckless indifference to human life and a conscious disregard of an unreasonable risk of death or serious bodily injury. An example of this is a 2007 law in California where an individual could be convicted of third-degree murder if he or she kills another person while operating a motor vehicle while being under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or controlled substances.
Under state of mind (iv), the felony-murder doctrine, the felony committed must be an inherently dangerous felony, such as burglary, arson, rape, robbery or kidnapping. Importantly, the underlying felony cannot be a lesser included offense such as assault, otherwise all criminal homicides would be murder as all are felonies.
Many jurisdictions divide murder by degrees. The most common divisions are between first and second degree murder. Generally, second degree murder is common law murder, and first degree is an aggravated form. The aggravating factors of first degree murder are a specific intent to kill, premeditation, and deliberation. In addition, murder committed by acts such as strangulation, poisoning, or lying in wait are also treated as first degree murder.
- Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.