Criminal Justice: RJ 3000 Chapter 7
A person is convicted of criminal homicide if he knowingly, recklessly or intentionally causes another one to die (California, 2015). In addition, a person is liable for criminal homicide if he causes death of another by way of criminal negligence.
Corpus Delicti describes the evidence that shows that a crime actually occurred. It refers to the substantial fact giving evidence that a crime was committed. Physical objects such as the remains of a burnt house or a dead body upon which crime was carried out constitute Corpus delicti.
Murder is unlawfully killing another with premeditated or aforethought malice. First degree murder entails deliberately, unlawfully, premeditatedly and willfully killing of another person. All other murder apart from the first degree murder falls under second degree murder.
Malice aforethought is the term used to describe a critical element of murder. Malice in criminal justice is committing a wrongful act intentionally without justification Malice aforethought involves intentionally committing harm without a justification as well as exhibiting hostility towards another person (California, 2015).
Some federal governments have prescribed and authorized death penalty on some murder cases. Criminal justice refers to murders where death penalty is prescribed as capital murder. States such as Florida, Missouri, Louisiana, Georgia, and New Mexico categorize first degree murder as capital murder. The decision to subject persons with clear intentions of killing to capital punishment was made by the United States Supreme Court in 1982 during the case of Edmund vs Florida.
Felony murder under the common law is applied if someone has committed a particular kind of felony resulting in the death of someone else in the process. It is legal law that seeks to expand the definition of murder crime. The defendant becomes liable regardless of whether death was accidental or intentional (California, 2015). Although some states have retained felony murder up to date, it is widely criticized and some countries such as England abolished this rule in 1957. Opponents of this rule argue that felony murder is synonymous with the first degree murder and that it seeks to reaffirm the sanctity of the life of a human being.
Manslaughter is different from murder because it lacks the element of premeditation and malice. Criminal justice refers manslaughter as the act of killing another person unlawfully without malice. It is a type of criminal homicide and has three elements including; unlawful killing, of a person, without premeditation or malice.
Voluntary manslaughter is unlawfully causing the death of another without evil desire. Voluntary manslaughter is committed intentionally in a sudden quarrel. The defendant acted from intense heat or acted after another person adequately provoked him (California, 2015). Provocation is adequate or reasonable if it causes a person to suddenly lose self-control.
Involuntary manslaughter is unintentionally causing death of someone resulting from criminal negligence or recklessness. Furthermore, involuntary manslaughter results from unlawful crime described as low level felony or misdemeanor. It is different from voluntary manslaughter in the sense that the death of the victim is not intended.
Negligent Homicide is a popular type of criminal homicides. A person is convicted of negligent homicide if there was negligence in his conduct although the degree of negligence was not gross or did not amount to recklessness or criminal negligence. It is different from involuntary manslaughter in the sense that charges of involuntary manslaughter are solely based on gross and criminal negligence.
Vehicular homicide according to the Florida law is killing of another in a motor vehicle through reckless driving. It is those unintentional deaths involving motor vehicle accidents where the surviving driver is to blame (California, 2015). Vehicular homicide involves substantially low level of negligence compared to the involuntary manslaughter.
Suicide is generally the act of causing death to yourself willingly. It is caused by factors such as depression, mental illnesses, drug abuse or alcoholism among others. Suicide sometimes occurs with the assistance of another. Under the common law, a person who assists another to commit suicide automatically becomes a party to murder.
Real life Example-The Scott Peterson Case
Scott Peterson was charged with the murder of his pregnant wife called Laci in 2002. Laci became missing in December 2002 and her mysterious disappearance triggered a media turmoil. Subsequently, the body of Laci and her unborn fetus was found on the shores of Francisco. Prior to the killing, Scott Peterson had an affair with Amber Frey, which according to the prosecutors motivated him to kill his wife (Crier & Thompson, 2005). Scott was charged with first degree murder in November 2004 for killing his pregnant wife. Furthermore, the Jury charged Peterson with the second degree murder for being guilty of the fetus murder. The Jury further ruled that Peterson be subjected to a capital punishment of lethal injection (Crier & Thompson, 2005). Up to date, Scott remains at California Quentin prison pending the hearing of a petition and an appeal filed with the California Supreme Court.
In this case, Paul is guilty of voluntary manslaughter for killing Larry and thereafter his wife. The facts of this case indicates that Paul acted in response to intense heat. There was reasonable provocation that led to Paul losing self-control and a result killing the two.
Tom is guilty of Vehicular homicide crime for killing a pedestrian though reckless driving. This was a motor vehicle accident where the reckless driver is to blame. If he was careful, the accident resulting into the death of an innocent pedestrian would not have occurred. Furthermore, Tom is guilty of felony murder since the death of the pedestrian was accidental.
Joe is guilty of voluntary manslaughter in this case because he acted in response to an intense heat. The facts of the case indicate that Frank adequately provoked and this resulted into Joe losing self-control and consequently shooting him on the stomach. Paul is guilty of suicide because he assisted Frank to commit suicide. Under the common law, a person who assists another to commit suicide becomes a party to murder.
The facts of this case are similar to those of scenario #3. Tom is guilty of suicide because he assisted the woman falling from the 20th floor to commit suicide. Under the common law, a person who assists another to commit suicide becomes a party to murder. Tom takes the law into his own hands by shooting the woman in order to lessen her suffering.
This case involves the killing of Chris Kyle and Chad Littlefield. Chris Kyle was a popular American sniper who is remembered due to his service during Iraq war. The defendant, Eddie Routh who struggled with PTSD after surviving the Iraq war committed the crime at Rough Creek Lodge. He shot Chris Kyle twelve times at the back and his friend, Chad 4 times. In the case, Routh was charged with murder after his defense attorney failed to satisfy the Jury that the defendant was mentally ill to realize the severity of the crimes he committed.
The insanity test in Texas seeks to establish if the defendant, at the time of committing the offense comprehended the right from wrong. If the defense team proves that the events and facts of the crime indicates that mental disorder prevented the defendant from comprehending that his acts were wrong, then the defendant may seek insanity defense (The, M. February 25, 2015). Insanity defense has become almost impossible in Texas because it is difficult to commit such a person to maximum security for treatment if he pleads not guilty by the reason of insanity.
The defense team of Routh demonstrated that the defendant struggled with paranoia and psychosis. Moore, the defense attorney indicated that his client had previously been into and out of hospital due to suicidal thoughts. He indicated that the defendant had been to veterans’ affairs psychiatric hospital in Dallas three times a month before committing the crime. Furthermore, the defense team indicated that prior to committing the crime, it was just one week after the defendant was discharged from hospital.
Insanity defense will not work because it is extremely difficult to raise insanity defense in Texas. The provisions of article 46C.154 of Texas have made it almost impossible to raise insanity defense.
The defense will prove the insanity test by indicating that the defendant was not able to comprehend that his acts were wrong at the time of committing the crime (The, M. February 25, 2015) The state of Texas will disapprove the test on grounds that it is impossible to commit the defendant to maximum security for treatment if he pleads not guilty by reason of insanity.
As a Juror, I would charge Routh with murder basing my ruling on the provisions of Article 46C.154.
The defense of insanity was not accepted because the defense team failed to satisfy the jury that the events and facts of the crime proved that mental disorder prevented the defendant from comprehending that his acts were wrong.
California. (2015). 7Crimes against persons: Homicide. Sacramento: Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training.
Crier, C., & Thompson, C. (2005). A deadly game: The untold story of the Scott Peterson investigation. New York: Harper.
The, M. V. (February 25, 2015). ‘American Sniper’ Shooter Found Guilty. The Moderate Voice, 2015-2.