Sample Criminal Law Paper on Murder and Homicide


Differences between Murder and Homicide

Both homicide and murder involve the act of one individual killing another. However,
unlike homicide, murder is intentional and the killer premeditates his or her action.
The media does not accurately portray both murder and homicide. In the United States,
all cases that involve the illegal killing of one person by another are commonly referred to as
homicide in the media. However, the media does not delve deeper to differentiate between a
murder (culpable homicide) and a justifiable homicide (Herring, 2012). Therefore, from a social
perspective, any killing is considered a murder.
This essay examines the differences between homicide and murder, from both a social
and legal perspective, and explains different types of murders. It further highlights the unique
elements in each murder type. Finally, the paper explains why an individual can be held liable
for murder even if he or she does not actually commit the crime.
Homicide is categorized into two types. The first type is criminal homicide, which is
similar to murder. Just like murder, criminal homicide attracts severe punishment since it is a
capital offense. The second type is justifiable homicide, in which the killer has no intention of
killing and neither does he or she plan it (Herring, 2012). For example, when an armed robber
breaks into a house and threatens members of that family with a knife, a member of the house
may take out a gun and shoot the robber dead. The killing is treated as a justifiable homicide as
the family member had no intention or plan to kill. The family member acted out of self-defense.
There are three types of murders. The first type is capital murder. This is the most severe
form of murder. It involves premeditation, malice, and deliberate planning. The term ‘deliberate’

implies that the killer has made a clear decision to take the life of the victim. Similarly,
premeditation indicates that the killer has thought about the action before implementing it
(Oshunrinade, 2015). For example, John might contemplate killing Joseph, his business rival. If
he goes ahead and purchases a gun and waits for Joseph in an isolated parking lot and shoots
him, it amounts to a capital murder.
The second degree of murder is defined as taking the life of another person with malice.
That is, an individual kills another person without deliberating or premeditating. For example,
John enters into a heated argument with Joseph. Joseph becomes angry and walks over to a safe
where he normally keeps his gun for personal protection. He takes the weapon, and kills John.
The killing is treated as a second-degree murder since John did not plan or make an advance
decision to kill Joseph.
The third degree of murder is felony murder. This type of murder happens in the process
of commission of a felony. The murder is not necessarily intended or planned, but is a mere
consequence of another crime. An accidental death is often regarded as a felony murder in many
states, provided that it occurs during the process of commission of a felony (Oshunrinade, 2015).
For example, if two men decide to rob a bank, and the guard tries to raise alarm, one of the
robbers shoots him dead without any prior planning to kill. In such a case, both robbers are guilty
of felony murder since they willfully participated in the robbery, knowing very well that
somebody could be hurt in the process.
Understanding the differences between homicide and murder is important as these not only affect
the defensive strategies adopted for the defendant, but also the severity of punishment.



Herring, J. (2012). Criminal law: Text, cases, and materials (1st ed.). Oxford, UK: Oxford
University Press.
Oshunrinade, A. (2015). Criminal law homicide: Degrees of murder and