, as defined in common
countries, is the unlawful killing of another human being
(or malice aforethought
), and generally this
state of mind distinguishes murder from other forms of unlawful
(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 permanently
deprives the victim of their existence, most societies both present
and in antiquity have considered it a most serious crime worthy of
the harshest of punishment. Typically a convicted murder suspect is
given a life sentence
or even the
for such an act. A
person who commits murder is called a murderer ;
, meaning a woman who murders, has largely fallen
Legal analysis of murder
), in his Commentaries on the Laws of
set out the common law
definition of murder as
The first few elements are relatively straightforward; however, the
concept of "malice aforethought" is a complex one that does not
necessarily mean premeditation. The following states of mind are
recognized as constituting the various forms of "malice
- 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"),
- Intent to commit a dangerous felony (the "felony-murder"
Under state of mind (i), intent to kill, the deadly weapon
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. An example of a deadly
weapon or instrument is a gun, a knife, or even a car when
intentionally used to strike the 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
second-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
be a lesser included offense
assault, otherwise all criminal homicides would be murder as all
Many jurisdiction divide murder by degrees. The most common
divisions are between first and second degree murder. Generally
second degree murder is common law murder with first degree being
an aggravated form. The aggravating factors that distinguish first
degree murder from second degree are first degree murder requires a
specific intent to kill and premeditation and deliberation.
Murder in religion
One of the oldest known prohibitions against murder appears in the
Sumerian Code of Ur-Nammu
sometime between 2100 and 2050 BC
code states, "If a man commits a murder, that man must be
In Abrahamic religions
prohibition against murder is one of the Ten Commandments
given by God to Moses in
(Exodus: 20v13) and (Deuteronomy 5v17) (See Murder in the Bible
). The Vulgate
and subsequent early English translations of
the Bible used the term secretly killeth his neighbor
smiteth his neighbour secretly
rather than murder
for the Latin clam percusserit proximum
Later editions such as Young's Literal Translation
the World English Bible
translated the Latin occides
simply as murder
rather than the alternatives of kill
, fall upon
Christian churches have some doctrinal differences about what forms
of homicide are prohibited biblically, though all agree murder
The term "assassin" derives from Hashshashin
, a militant Ismaili
Muslim sect, active from the eighth to the
fourteenth centuries. This mystic secret
killed members of the Abbasid
élite for political and religious reasons.
Thuggee cult that plagued India was devoted
to Kali, the goddess of death and
According to the Guinness Book of Records
Thuggee cult was responsible for approximately 2 million
to Ross Hassig, author of Aztec
Warfare, "between 10,000 and 80,400 persons" were sacrificed in the 1487 re-consecration of
the Great Pyramid
The crime of murder was often formally codified after democratic
reform in various jurisdictions, legislatures
began passing statutes
As with most legal terms, the precise definition of
varies between jurisdictions and is usually
codified in some form of legislation.
At common law
According to Blackstone, English common
identified murder as a public wrong
. At common
law, murder is considered to be malum in
, that is an act which is evil within itself. An act
such as murder is wrong/evil by its very nature. And it is the very
nature of the act which does not require any specific detailing or
definition in the law to consider murder a crime.
Some jurisdictions still take a common
view of murder. In such jurisdictions, precedent
case law or previous decisions of the
courts of law defines what is considered murder. However, it tends
to be rare and the majority of jurisdictions have some statutory
prohibition against murder.
In common law
has two elements or parts:
- the act (actus reus) of
killing a person
- the state of mind (mens rea)
of intentional, purposeful, malicious, premeditated, and/or
While murder is often expressed as the unlawful killing of another
human being with "malice
", this element of malice may not be required in
every jurisdiction (for example, see the French definition of
- The element of malice aforethought can be satisfied by an
intentional killing, which is considered express malice.
- Malice can also be implied: deaths that occur by any
recklessness or during certain serious crimes are considered to be
implied malice murders.
- Unlawful killings without malice or intent are considered
- Justified or accidental killings are considered homicides. Depending on the circumstances, these
may or may not be considered criminal offenses.
- Suicide is not considered murder in most
societies. Assisting a suicide, however, may be considered murder
in some circumstances.
- Capital punishment ordered by
a legitimate court of law as the result of a conviction in a
criminal trial with due process for a
- Killing of enemy combatants by lawful combatants in accordance with lawful
orders in war, although illicit killings within
a war may constitute murder or homicidal war
crimes. (see the Laws of war
- The administration of lethal drugs by a doctor to a terminally ill patient, if the intention is
solely to alleviate pain, is seen in many jurisdictions as a
special case (see the doctrine of double
effect and the case of Dr John
All jurisdictions require that the victim be a natural person; that
is a human being
who was still alive at
the time of being murdered. Most jurisdictions legally distinguish
killing a fetus
or unborn child as a different
crime, such as illegal abortion of a
or the unlawful killing of an unborn child
distinction between a fetus and an unborn child in these
jurisdictions is that a child could survive if it had been born,
while a fetus could not.
Some countries allow conditions that "affect the balance of the
mind" to be regarded as mitigating
. 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 judgment at the time. Depression
, post-traumatic stress
and medication side-effect
are examples of
conditions that may be taken into account when assessing
may apply to
a wide range of disorders including psychosis
caused by schizophrenia
, and excuse the person from the need to
undergo the stress of a trial as to liability. In some
jurisdictions, following the pre-trial hearing to determine the
extent of the disorder, the defense of "not guilty by reason of
insanity" may be used to get a not guilty verdict. This defense has
York law, for example:
- That the defendant had a serious
mental illness, disease, or defect.
- That the defendant's mental condition, at the time of the
killing, rendered the perpetrator unable to determine right from
wrong, or that what he or she was doing was wrong.
Under the French Penal
Those who successfully argue a defense based on a mental disorder
are usually referred to mandatory clinical treatment until they are
certified safe to be released back into the community, rather than
countries, such as Canada, Italy, Norway, Sweden, the
Zealand and Australia, allow
post-partum depression (also
known as post-natal depression) as a defense against murder of a
child by a mother, provided that a child is less than two years old
(this may be the specific offense of infanticide rather than murder and include the
effects of lactation and other aspects of post-natal
In 2009, Texas state representative Jessica Farrar
proposed similar rules for her
home state. Under the terms of the proposed legislation, if jurors
concluded that a mother's "judgment was impaired as a result of the
effects of giving birth or the effects of lactation following the
birth," they would be allowed to convict her of the crime of
infanticide, rather than murder. When Infanticide Isn't Murder
penalty for infanciticide would be two years in prison. Farrar's
introduction of this bill prompted liberal bioethics scholar
Jacob M. Appel
to call her "the bravest politician in
Acting in self-defense
defense of another person is generally accepted as legal
justification for killing a person in situations that would
otherwise have been murder. However, a self-defense killing might
be considered manslaughter if the killer established control of the
situation before the killing took place. In the case of
self-defense it is called a justifiable homicide.
For a killing to be considered murder, there normally needs to be
an element of intent. For this argument to be successful the killer
generally needs to demonstrate that they took precautions not to
kill and that the death could not have been anticipated or was
unavoidable, whatever action they took. As a general rule, manslaughter
killing, while criminally
negligent homicide is a grossly negligent killing.
jurisdictions using the Uniform Penal
Code, such as California, diminished
capacity may be a defense.
For example, Dan White
used this defense to obtain a
manslaughter conviction, instead of murder, in the assassination
of Mayor George Moscone
and Supervisor Harvey Milk
In some common law
accused of murder is not guilty
if the victim survives for longer than one year and one day
after the attack.
This reflects the likelihood that if the victim dies, other factors
will have contributed to the cause of death, breaking the chain of
. Subject to any statute of limitations
, the accused
could still be charged with an offence representing the seriousness
of the initial assault
With advances in modern medicine, most countries have abandoned a
fixed time period and test causation on the facts of the
In the UK, due to medical advancements, the "year-and-a-day-rule"
is no longer in use. However, if death occurs three years or more
after the original attack then prosecution can take place only with
In the United States, many jurisdictions have abolished the rule as
well. Abolition of the rule has been accomplished by enactment of
statutory criminal codes, which had the effect of displacing the
common-law definitions of crimes and corresponding defenses.
the Supreme Court of the United
States held that retroactive application of a state
supreme court decision abolishing the year-and-a-day rule did not
violate the Ex Post Facto Clause
I of the United States Constitution.
Murders (per 100,000 people per annum)
(most recent) by country
An estimated 520,000 people were murdered in 2000 around the globe.
Two-fifths of them were young people between the ages of 10 and 29
who were killed by other young people.
greatly among countries and societies around the world. In the
, murder rates in most
countries have declined significantly during the 20th century and
are now between 1-4 cases per 100,000 people per year. Murder rates in
Japan, Ireland and Iceland are among
the lowest in the world, around 0.5; the rate of the United States is among the highest of developed countries, around 5.5 in 2004,
with rates in larger cities sometimes over 40 per
Western world, nearly 90% of all murders are committed by males,
with males also being the victims of 74.6% of murders (according
the United States Department of
There is a sharp peak in the age
distribution of murderers between the ages of 17 and 30. People
become less likely to commit a murder as they age. Incidents of
children and adolescents committing murders are also extremely
The following absolute murder counts per-country are not comparable
because they are not adjusted by each country's total population.
Nonetheless, they are included here for reference. There are an
estimated 55,000 murders in Brazil every year,
about 30,000 murders committed annually in Russia,
approximately 25,000 murders in Colombia (in 2005, murders went down to 15,000),
approximately 20,000 murders each year in South Africa, approximately 17,000 murders in
States (666,160 murders from 1960 to 1996), approximately
15,000 murders in Mexico,
approximately 11,000 murders in Venezuela, approximately 6,000 murders in El Salvador, approximately 1,600 murders in Jamaica, approximately 1000 murders in France,
approximately 580 murders per year in Canada, and
approximately 200 murders in Chile.
murder rate in Port
Moresby, Papua New
Guinea is 23 times that of London.
murder cases were registered across India in
2007. Pakistan reported 9,631 murders.
Murder is the leading cause of death for African American
males aged 15 – 34. In the
year 2007 non-negligent homicides, there were 3,221 black victims
and 3,587 white victims. While 2,905 of the black victims were
killed by a black offender, 2,918 of the white victims were killed
by white offenders. There were 566 white victims of black offenders
and 245 black victims of white offenders.
Murder demographics are affected by the improvement of trauma care,
leading to reduced lethality of violent assaults - thus the murder
rate may not necessarily indicate the overall level of social
Development of murder rates over time in different countries is
often used by both supporters and opponents of capital punishment
and gun control
. Using properly filtered data, it is
possible to make the case for or against either of these issues.
For example, one could look at murder rates in the United States
from 1950 to 2000, and notice that those rates went up sharply
shortly after a moratorium on death
was effectively imposed in the late 1960s. This fact
has been used to argue that capital punishment serves as a
deterrent and, as such, it is morally justified. Capital punishment
opponents frequently counter that the United States has much higher
murder rates than Canada and most
European Union countries, although
all those countries have abolished the death penalty.
Overall, the global pattern is too complex, and on average, the
influence of both these factors may not be significant and could be
more social, economic, and cultural.
The fraction of murders solved has decreased in the United States,
from 90% in 1960 to 61% in 2007. Solved murder rates in major U.S. cities
varied in 2007 from 36% in Boston, Massachusetts to 76% in San Jose, California.
Major factors affecting the arrest rate
include witness cooperation and the number of people assigned to
investigate the case.
Country-specific murder law
defined in the New South
Wales (NSW) Crimes Act
1900 as follows:
Under NSW law, the maximum penalty for murder is life imprisonment
with a standard non-parole period of 20 years. Attempted murder
carries a maximum penalty of 25 years imprisonment. Note that in
order to be guilty of murder under the NSW Crimes Act, intent to
cause grievous bodily harm is enough to secure a conviction for
murder, as is felony murder
(constructive murder in
There is a statutory defence of provocation in NSW law; if
provocation is proven and the person would have otherwise been
convicted of murder, directs the jury to find the defendant not
guilty of murder but
guilty of manslaughter.
However, this is not the
case in Victoria or Tasmania - the Crimes Act 1958 (VIC),
in Section 3B, states:
The rule of law that provocation reduces the crime of
murder to manslaughter is abolished.
In any jurisdiction within Australia, the maximum penalty for
murder is life imprisonment.
As defined in the Criminal Code
of Canada, murder is a culpable homicide with specific
Culpable homicide is defined as causing the death of a human being,
- By means of an unlawful act;
- By causing that human being, by threats or fear of violence or
by deception, to do anything that causes his death; or
- By wilfully frightening that human being, in the case of a
child or sick person.
Culpable homicide is elevated to murder when
- The person who causes the death of a human being means to cause
his death, or means to cause him bodily harm that he knows is
likely to cause his death and is reckless whether death ensues or
- A person meant to cause the death of a human being or cause him
bodily harm that he knows is likely to cause his death, and by
accident or mistake causes death to another human being,
notwithstanding that he does not mean to cause death or bodily harm
to that person (see transferred
- A person, for an unlawful objective, does anything he knows is
likely to cause death, and thereby causes death to a human being,
notwithstanding that he desires to effect his objective without
causing death or bodily harm to any human being.
First and second degree
In Canada, murder is classified as either first or second degree.
- First degree murder is a murder which is (1) planned and
deliberate, (2) contracted, (3) committed against an identified
peace officer, (4) while
committing or attempting to commit one of the following offences
(hijacking an aircraft, sexual assault, sexual assault with a
weapon, aggravated sexual assault, kidnapping and forcible
confinement or hostage taking), (5) while committing criminal
harassment, (6) committed during terrorist activity, (7) while
using explosives in association with a criminal organization, or
(8) while committing intimidation.
- Second degree murder is all murder which is not first degree
murder. It could be "spur of the moment".
Manslaughter and infanticide
- Manslaughter is any culpable homicide which is not
murder or infanticide.
- Infanticide is the killing of a newly-born child by its mother
where the mother's mind was disturbed as a result of giving birth
or of consequent lactation. It is a type of homicide but is
excluded from murder.
In addition, depending on the type of homicide offence, there may
be different degrees of causation
that the prosecutor is required to prove. The general test for
causation in all homicide offences is a significant
contributing cause of the victim's death. If the jury finds
that the accused committed the murder in the context of one of the
offences listed above (criteria (4) of first degree murder), then
the jury must be satisfied the accused was a substantial
cause of the victim's death before finding the accused guilty
of first degree murder.
The mandatory sentence for any adult (or youth sentenced as an
adult) convicted of murder in Canada is a life sentence, with
various time periods before a person may apply for parole. The ability to apply for parole does not mean
parole is granted.
||Parole ineligibility period
|Second degree murder
|Second degree murder by an offender previously convicted of
|Second degree murder (16 or 17 years old at time of the
|First degree murder
|First degree murder (16 or 17 years old at time of the
|First/second degree murder (14 or 15 years old at time of the
Someone guilty of a single murder could be have his non-parole
period reduced to no less than 15 years under the Faint hope clause.
There is a clause under which a person convicted of any "personal
injury offence" meeting the statutory criteria may be declared a
"dangerous offender". A dangerous
offender is sentenced for an indeterminate period of imprisonment
and is eligible for parole after serving at least 7 years. An
offender convicted of 1st or 2nd degree murder is ineligible to be
declared a dangerous offender. However, an offender convicted of
manslaughter can be declared a dangerous offender.
A youth (12 years old or
older) who is not sentenced as an adult does not face a life
sentence. Instead, if convicted of first degree murder, they must
serve a maximum sentence of 10 years, with a maximum of 6 of those
years spent in custody. If convicted of second degree murder, they
must serve a maximum of 7 years, with a maximum of 4 of those years
spent in custody.
The Chinese Penalty Law, as amended in 1997, provides for a penalty
of death, or imprisonment for life or no less than 10 years, for
"killing with intent." However, the penalty for "minor killing with
intent" is imprisonment for no less than 3 years. In practice,
"killing with indignation" (killing someone who is obviously very
harmful to the society) and killings committed in excessive
defense are considered
In Denmark manddrab (manslaughter) is the term used by the
Danish penalty law to describe
the act of intentionally killing another person. No distinction
between manslaughter and murder exists. The penalty goes from a
minimum of five years (six years in the case of regicide) to imprisonment for life.
Besides the general offence described above there are more specific
homicide offences in Danish law that are not considered as grave as
manslaughter. Infanticide is defined as
a mother who kills her child during or immediately after childbirth
due to distress, fear of infamy or under the influence of a
debilitation, bewilderment or perplexity caused by giving birth and
is punished with imprisonment for up to four years. Euthanasia is defined as killing somebody on
their definite request and is punished with imprisonment for up to
three years. While attempting suicide is not considered criminal in
Danish law, assisting somebody in committing suicide is punishable
by imprisonment for up to three years.
Besides deliberate killing two offences regarding the unintentional
killing of someone exist in Danish law. Negligent homicide is defined as
negligently causing the death of another person. The penalty is a
fine or imprisonment for up to four years, under aggravating
circumstances imprisonment for up to eight years. Death caused by
aggravated battery describes the situation where the perpetrator
has the intention to commit an aggravated battery but where the
battery leads to the unintentional death of the victim. The
punishment is imprisonment for up to ten years.
England and Wales
In English law, the definition of murder
- The unlawful killing of a human being, under the Queen's Peace, with "malice aforethought".
Contrast this with the original definition by Sir Edward Coke CJ in 1597 of:
Note that it is no longer necessary for the victim to die within a
year and a day of the offence, nor for the victim to be a
Specific statutory instances of situations where death is caused
The aggravated form of criminal damage, including arson, under s1(2) Criminal Damage Act 1971 could be
the anticipatory offence rather than a charge of attempted murder.
- Infanticide - Under s1 Infanticide Act 1938, the intentional
killing of an infant under 1-year-old by a mother suffering from
post-natal depression or other post-natal disturbance represents an
early form of diminished
responsibility defence and
- Causing death by
dangerous driving (of a motor vehicle) was introduced because
jurors, many of whom were drivers, thought the
charge of manslaughter to carry too great a level of stigma for the
degree of fault actually shown by some drivers and refused to
convict when the charge was manslaughter. Now motor manslaughter is considered an
acceptable charge for the more seriously dangerous examples of
driving resulting in death, with aggravated
TWOC for the least seriously dangerous driving resulting in
Any other killing would be considered either manslaughter in English law or
- Voluntary manslaughter is murder mitigated to manslaughter by
virtue of the statutory defences under the Homicide Act 1957, namely provocation, diminished
responsibility or suicide
- Involuntary manslaughter is the killing of another person
whether by act or omission either while committing an unlawful act
(known as constructive manslaughter) or by gross
English Law also allows for transferred malice. For example, where a
man fires a gun with the intent to kill person A but the shot
misses and kills an otherwise unconnected person B, the intent to
kill transfers from person A to person B and a charge of murder
would stand. The accused could also be charged with the attempted murder of A.
As to mens rea, the model
direction to be given to juries for intention in English law following
R v. Woollin, is a modified version of that
proposed by Lord Lane, C.J. in R v Nedrick  1 WLR
- Where the charge is murder and in the rare cases where the
simple direction is not enough, the jury should be directed that
they are not entitled to infer the necessary intention, unless they
feel sure that death or serious bodily harm was a virtual certainty
(barring some unforeseen intervention) as a result of the
defendant's actions and that the defendant
appreciated that such was the case, the decision being for the jury
to decide on a consideration of all the evidence.
The defences of duress and
necessity in English law
are excluded from murder cases. An exception is Re A , a case involving a pair of conjoined
twins. However, the judge noted the legal adage that "hard cases
make bad law" and recommended that the precedent should not be
followed. Another defence is that of double effect. As established in the 1957
trial of Dr John Bodkin Adams,
causing death through the administration of lethal drugs to a
patient, if the intention is solely to alleviate pain, is not
Comparatively recent adaptations to the English law of murder
include the abolition of the "year and a day rule", and the
proposed introduction of a less restrictive regime for corporate manslaughter. The Law
Commission Consultation Paper No. 177 also advocates a redefinition
of murder and a limitation of the scope of manslaughter.
In Finland, murder is defined as homicide with at least one of four
- Deliberate intent
- Exceptional brutality or cruelty
- Significantly endangering public safety
- Committed against a public official engaged in enforcing the
Further, the offense considered as a whole must be aggravated. A
murder doesn't expire.
The only possible punishment for murder is life imprisonment.
Typically, the prisoner will be pardoned by the Helsinki Court of
Appeals after serving 12 to 14 years of the sentence, but this is
not automatic. The President
can also give pardon, and previously this used to be the only
In jurisprudence, the comparison of an actual crime against the
"especially brutal or cruel way" standard has been understood to
mean comparison to "usual" homicide cases. In recent cases, the
Finnish Supreme Court has not considered a single axe stroke on the
head, or strangulation to be "especially brutal or cruel". On the
other hand, causing death by jumping on a person's chest and head
and firing over 10 times upon a person's torso have been considered
to fulfill the standard.
Until 2006, a life sentence could be pardoned only by the
president. However, since the 1960s, presidents have regularly
given pardons to practically all offenders after a period of 12–15
years. In 2006, the legislation was changed so that all life
sentences are reviewed by an appellate court after they have been
executed for 12 years. If the convict is still deemed a danger to
society, his or her case will be reviewed every two years after
this. Involuntary confinement to a psychiatric institution may also
result, sometimes after the sentence is served. The involuntary
treatment ends when the psychiatrist decides so, or when a court
decrees it no longer necessary in a periodical review.
If the prerequisites are not fulfilled, but the homicide has been
deliberate and premeditated, the convict is sentenced for second degree murder (tappo)
to a minimum of eight years in prison. There is also the crime of
(surma), which is a homicide under mitigating/extenuating
circumstances, with the punishment of four to ten years. Involuntary manslaughter
(kuolemantuottamus) has a maximum punishment of two years
of imprisonment or fine (see day fine).
Infanticide carries a punishment of at least four months and at
most four years in prison.
French Penal Code murder is defined by the intentional
killing of another person. Murder is punishable by
a maximum of 30 years of criminal imprisonment (no more than 20 years if the defendant is not sentenced to 30 years).
Assassination (murder with
premeditation) and murder in some special case (if the victim is a
child under 15, parents, people with disabilities, police officer
etc.) are punished by a jail time up to life imprisonment (no more
than 30 years if the defendant is not sentenced to life). In France
except for recidivist the minimum sentence in criminal prosecution
is one or two year of imprisonment, which may be suspended if the
term of the sentence is under 5 years. Manslaughter is punishable
by 15 years imprisonment, or 20 years with aggravating
circumstances (the same that make a murderer eligible for life in
Germany the term Mord (murder) is officially used
for the intentional killing of another person, but only if the case
is especially severe. The requirements can be read in § 211
of the German Criminal Code, Strafgesetzbuch (StGB).
Those qualifying circumstances are categorized into three groups:
- detestable motive
- detestable way of committing the crime
- detestable purpose/aim of the criminal.
Intentional killing that doesn't fall within those aggravating
circumstances usually fulfills § 212 (Totschlag literally means
"deathblow": similar to second-degree murder, however actually any
case of killing that is not fulfilling the qualifications of murder
as seen above - actually the same as Tötung (killing) in Swiss
The current form of § 211 StGB was created in the year 1941. Before
that the differentiation between Mord (murder) and Totschlag
(killing) was, that Mord was killing "with premeditation" ("mit
Überlegung" - directly translated: with consideration, however that
is just another legal word for the same concept) and Totschlag
without (1871-1941). However this differentiation was considered
too vague. The reform was orientated on discussions for the reform
of the Swiss StGB, which also had the same differentiation. It took
over the idea and mainly also the wording of the reform commission
for the Swiss StGB headed by Stoss in 1896. With this version, the
differentiation between Mord and Totschlag contains problems. This
led to ongoing discussions in the legal community about the
wording, the interpretation and also about a reform of the
If the victim of a killing earnestly wanted to be killed
(for example, when suffering an incurable disease) the crime would
be Tötung auf Verlangen (killing on demand, § 216 StGB)
which would result in 6 months to 5 years in prison (usually
suspended) – basically, mercy killing. In 2002, there was a
cannibal case in which the offender, Armin
Meiwes, claimed that the victim wanted to be killed. The court
convicted him of "Totschlag", since they didn't see the
qualifications of a murder. Both prosecution and defense appealed,
the prosecution in order to reach a guilty of murder verdict, the
defense in order to reduce the charge to killing on demand. The
German "Bundesgerichtshof", the highest German court of appeal,
eventually convicted him of murder.
If the killing was due to negligence it is punished according to §
222 StGB as fahrlässige Tötung (negligent homicide or
manslaughter). Many cases in this field are car accidents due to
negligence that result in the death of a person.
If the death is a negligent consequence of an intended act of
violence, it is classified as Körperverletzung mit
Todesfolge (injury resulting in death).
The penalty for Mord is
lifelong imprisonment, which is usually suspended after 17–18 years
(15 years minimum) on a probation of 5 years or if the court
decided on a special gravity (Feststellung der besonderen
Schwere der Schuld), the sentence can only be suspended much
later, earliest after 18 years but usually after 22–23 years (the
law states that a suspension after 15 years is not possible for
"special gravity" crimes, but provides no explicit minimum served
The penalty for Totschlag is five to fifteen years in
prison and in especially grave cases life time imprisonment
(minimum sentence 15 years). Especially grave cases are very rare,
because usually such case already fall under Mord (§ 211).
In lesser cases (minderschwerer Fall, § 213) the prison
sentence is one to ten years.
The law itself gives one example for a minor case: the killing due
to the provocation of the killed person, e.g. if the killed person
has beaten the offender or one of his relatives or has severely
insulted them and the killer acted under the influence of great
The lesser case of Totschlag is similar.
German criminal law also knows the institute of the felony murder
which also carries a life-long sentence, however only if a person
is intentionally or negligently killed in the course of a robbery,
a kidnapping or a sexual assault. Actually only if the killing was
intended by the criminal it is called murder. Intention also
includes cases where the criminal knows that the victim could die
and simply takes that into account for other causes
Robbery with deadly outcome
If the killing was due to gross negligence the criminal can be
punished for robbery with deadly outcome (Raub mit
Todesfolge) according to § 251. The punishment is a lifetime
prison sentence or a prison sentence not below 10 years. The same
applies for rape with deadly outcome (§ 178: Vergewaltigung mit
Todesfolge) and other crimes.
Attempted suicide and aiding (Beihilfe zur Selbsttötung) and
abetting a person intent on killing himself are not punishable by
German criminal law.
Before 1949 the usual punishment for Mord (§ 211) in
Germany was capital punishment,
except in less severe cases. In 1949, the death penalty was
abolished by the Grundgesetz in
West Germany. In East Germany the death penalty was abolished in 1987.
After the 1950s it was very rarely used.
The Offences Against the Person Ordinance (Cap.212) and the
Homicide Ordinance (Cap.339) are the main statutes that govern
homicide. However, no definition of any type of unlawful homicide
is available in the Ordinances. As a result, common law definitions
remain largely relevant to Hong Kong.
The definition of murder is identical to that in England and
The "year and a day" rule has also been abolished. Contrary to the
position in England and Wales, there is no time limit beyond which
the consent of the Secretary of Justice would be required.
The retention of intention to cause grievous bodily harm as a form
of "malice aforethought" (the other form being the intention to
kill) was challenged in the case HKSAR v Lau Cheong as being both
insufficient in common law and in contrary to the Basic Law and the Bill of Rights.
judges, sitting on the Court of Final Appeal, unanimously rejected both argments.
Murder carries a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment, except in
relation to offenders under the age of 18 at the time of the
murder, who are subject to a discretionary sentence.
The Offences Against the Person Ordinance prescribes a number of
specific types of attempted murder, includng by using poison,
wounding another (§ 10), by destroying or damaging building (§ 11),
setting fire to or casting away ship (§ 12) and attempting to shoot
or drown (§ 13), which are all punishable by life
Attempted murder by other means not specified in the statute (§ 14)
shall be liable to imprisonment for life.
India according to the Indian Penal Code, 1860 Murder is
defined as follows
Murder.--Except in the cases hereinafter excepted, culpable
homicide is murder, if the act by which the death is caused is done
with the intention of causing death,or- 167 2ndly.-If it is done
with the intention of causing such bodily injury as the offender
knows to be likely to cause the death of the person to whom the
harm is caused.or- 3rdly.-If it is done with the intention of
causing bodily injury to any person and the bodily injury intended
to be inflicted is sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to
cause death,or- 4thly.-If the person committing the act knows that
it is so imminently dangerous that it must, in all probability,
cause death, or such bodily injury as is likely to cause death, and
commits such act without any excuse for incurring the risk of
causing death or such injury as aforesaid.
On the other hand, culpable
homicide is defined as
... by causing death of person other than person whose death was
intended.--If a person, by doing anything which he intends or knows
to be likely to cause death, commits culpable homicide by causing
the death of any person, whose death he neither intends nor knows
himself to be likely to cause, the culpable homicide committed by
the offender is of the description of which it would have been if
he had caused the death of the person whose death he intended or
knew himself to he likely to cause
Indian Penal Code, 1860
Israel had 173
murders in 2004, compared to 147 murders in 2000. Two
particular characteristics of homicide in Israel are the terrorist
attacks and (so called) honor
There are five types of homicide in Israel:
- 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. Arab terrorists are not
usually granted pardons or parole other than as part of deals
struck with Arab terrorist organisations or foreign governments and
in exchange for captured Israelis or their corpses.
- Reduced sentence murder - If 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. This is a new addition to the Israeli
penal code and has been rarely used.
- Manslaughter - The deliberate killing of a person without
premeditation (or the other circumstances of murder) is
manslaughter for which the maximum sentence is 20 years. The
sentence depends on the particular circumstances of the crime and
- Negligent killing or vehicular killing - Maximum sentence is 3
years (minimum of 11 months for the driver). The perpetrator in
this situation can expect to receive some jail time of about 6 – 12
- Infanticide - The killing of a baby less than 12 months old by
its mother where she can show that she was suffering from the effects of the birth or
breast-feeding. Maximum sentence is 5 years.
Italian law, murder (omicidio) is regulated by
articles 575-582, 584-585, and 589 of the Penal Code (Codice
In general, according to Art.575, "whoever causes the death of a
human being is punishable by no less than 21 years in prison";
nevertheless, the law indicates a series of circumstances under
which murder has to be punished with life in prison.
It must also be noted that, according to Italian law, any sentence
of more than 5 years perpetually deprives (Interdizione
perpetua dai Pubblici Uffici) the condemned person of: the
voting rights; the ability to exercise any public office; the
ability to be employed in any governmental or para-statal position
(articles 19, 28, 29). The convict for life is also deprived of
his/her quality of parent: the children are either given in custody
to the other parent or hosted in a public structure (art.32).
In detail, according to articles 576 and 577 is punishable with
life imprisonment murder
Cases 1 through 4 (art.576) used to be considered capital murder,
and therefore punishable by death by firing squad. Since 1946, though,
death penalty was discontinued in Italy, and death was substituted
with life imprisonment. Sentences for murder under cases 5 through
9 (art.577). instead, are subject to parole or probation.A person
that is serving a life sentence can
- In order to commit another crime, or in order to escape, of
favor, or take advantage from another crime (art.61, sect.2);
- Against a next of kin (parent or child) and either
through insidious means, with premeditation, cruelly, of for futile
- By a fugitive in order to escape capture, or in order to
acquire means of subsistence;
- While raping or sexually assaulting a
person (articles 519, 520, 521).
- In a cruel way and/or through the use of torture (art.61,
- For abject and/or futile motives (art.61, sect.4);
- Against a next of kin (parent or child);
- Through insidious means;
- With premeditation.
Besides the criminal murder detailed above, in Italian law the
following cases also exist:
- Infanticide - (Infanticidio in condizioni di abbandono
materiale e morale), murder of the infant immediately
following the birth committed by the mother who is in conditions of
material or moral disorder, is punishable with a sentence between 4
and 12 years (art. 578).
- Killing on demand - (Omicidio del consenziente), the
action to kill someone with his/her consent, is punishable with a
sentence between 6 and 15 years. This, however, is considered
murder if the victim, when giving his/her consent, was under the
age of 18, intoxicated, mentally disabled, or if the consent was
obtained through violence, menace, or deception (art.579).
- Assistance or instigation of suicide - (Istigazione o aiuto
al suicidio), the action to help someone to commit suicide, or
to convince someone to commit suicide, is punishable with a
sentence between 5 and 12 years if the suicide succeeds, or between
1 and 5 years if it does not succeed but a body injury has been
made. This, however, is considered murder if the suicide is under
the age of 14 (art.580).
- Injury resulting in death - (Omicidio
preterintenzionale) occurs when, as a result of a deliberated
act of violence not meant to kill (articles 581,582), the death of
a person occurs. This crime is punishable with a sentence between
10 and 18 years (art.584). This sentence can be increased from one
third to one half (up to 27 years) if a circumstance stated by
articles 576 and 577 occurs, or if a weapon is used (art.585).
- Manslaughter - (Omicidio colposo), the action of
causing the death of a person without intention, is punished with a
sentence between 6 months and 5 years. If the victims are more than
one as a consequence of the same act, multiple counts can be added
up to 12 years in prison (art.589).
Dutch law, murder
(moord) is punishable by a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, which is the longest
prison sentence the law allows. A common misconception is
that the maximum sentence is 30 years (20 until 2006): this is the
longest sentence that can be imposed other than life imprisonment.
A life sentence is given 4 to 5 times a year on average and
currently over 30 people are serving a life sentence in the
Netherlands. They will all die in prison unless given parole by
either Queen Beatrix or her successor.
The average sentence is 12 to 15 years. In addition to a prison
sentence, the judge may sentence the suspect to TBS, or 'terbeschikkingstelling',
meaning detention in a
psychiatric institution, sometimes including forced treatment. 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 criticized as being a life sentence in disguise.
Voluntary manslaughter (doodslag) is punishable by a
prison sentence of up to 15 years, or life imprisonment when
committed during the commission of a crime or as an act of
terrorism. Involuntary manslaughter (dood door schuld) is
punishable by a prison sentence of up to two years. If involuntary
manslaughter is caused by recklessness, the maximum sentence that
can be imposed is four years.
Norway any act of murder (mord or drap)
is generally split into three categories; planned murder,
intentional murder or murder as a result of
Categories of murder
- Planned murder or First Degree Murder - (overlagt
drap) is a murder committed with the intention of taking the
life of another, by a person fully sane and aware of what he or she
is doing, and having planned the act of murder ahead. Planned
murder is punished with up to 21 years of imprisonment. Under
special circumstances, like a murder of severe cruelty, or if there
is reason to believe the offender may commit murder again,
additional years of imprisonment can be given. LOV-1902-05-22-10 Almindelig borgerlig Straffelov
(Straffeloven) This usually takes place at a court hearing near
the end of the sentence.
- Intentional murder or Second Degree Murder - (forsettlig
drap) is a murder committed with the intention of taking the
life of another, by a person fully sane and aware of what he or she
is doing, without the act of murder having been planned ahead.
Murder of passion usually falls into this category. Intentional
murder is punished by 6 to 12 years of imprisonment. LOV-1902-05-22-10 Almindelig borgerlig Straffelov
- Murder as a result of neglect or manslaughter - (uaktsomt
drap) is defined as a case where someone has been killed as a
result of the offenders neglect. For example, a car driver may be
convicted for murder if someone is killed as a result of his or her
careless driving. Murder as a result of neglect is punishable by 3
to 6 years, depending on the circumstances. LOV-1902-05-22-10 Almindelig borgerlig Straffelov
Other forms of murder
Assisted suicide is generally illegal in Norway, and will in most
cases be treated as planned murder, although the punishment may be
milder depending on the circumstances.
Euthanasia (aktiv dødshjelp) has
been much debated in Norway. Some groups have expressed that it
should be legal in cases where the victim is sane and fully aware
of what he or she is asking for. Acts of euthanasia, however, are
illegal, and are treated as any other form of assisted
The Portuguese Penal Code was adopted in 1982 and has been revised
on several occasions, most recently in 2007. It devotes a whole
chapter on "crimes against human life". In fact, the very first
crime addressed on that code is murder.
The Portuguese Constitution (adopted in 1976) expressly forbids the
death penalty (art. 24, § 2) and
life imprisonment (art. 30, § 1).
Additionally, since 1997, the Constitution does not allow the
extradition of anyone who would be
subject to any of those two forms of punishment at the requesting
country. Unless binding assurances are given that the suspect will
not be sentenced to either death
penalty or life imprisonment,
the extradition must be rejected.
Additionally, the Penal Code states that no person may be sentenced
to a prison term longer than 25 years, whichever crimes he or she
has been found guilty of committing. Therefore, a multiple murderer
- no matter how many actual homicides - will not serve more than 25
years in prison. Likewise, in the case murder is committed in
addition to other felonies, the defendant will be sentenced to a
single prison term, for a period no longer than 25 years,
encompassing the applicable terms for each crime committed.
It should also be mentioned that, according the Portuguese Penal
Code, only very rarely will a sentence of less than 5-years
imprisonment be enforced. In fact, article 75, § 1, states that if
an offence is punishable by a prison term or another non-detentive
form of punishment, the court should opt for the non-detentive
punishment "if this punishment will satisfy adequately the
objectives of the criminal law."
Therefore, someone convicted to up to 5 years in prison will be put
on probation or (if the sentence if for less than 3 years) will
simply have the prison sentence suspended. If the convicted felon
commits another intentional crime during the period of suspension
or probation, he or she will serve fully the prison term. Probation
or term-suspension usually will only be denied in the case of
criminals with very long criminal records.
Intentional murder, or homicide,
is split into two categories, much like the American classification
of murder in the first degree and murder in the second degree
Homicide, or wilful and intentional murder (art. 131 of the Penal
Code), is punishable with a prison sentence of no less than 8 years
and no longer than 16 years.
Aggravated homicide(art. 132 of the Penal Code) is considered any
wilful and intentional act in which death is provoked under
particularly censurable or malicious circumstances, and is
punishable with a prison term of no less than 12 and no longer than
The following circumstances are adequate to constitute a case of
- a) When the murderer is a descendant or an ascendant, either by
blood or adoption, of the victim.
- b) When the victim is the spouse, former spouse, or person of
the same or different with sex with whom the felon had a marital
relationship, even if not a member of the same household, or the
other parent of the son or daughter of the felon.
- c) When the victim is especially defenceless, due to his/her
age, handicap, illness or pregnancy.
- d) When the murder employs torture or other act of cruelty to
enhance the victim's sufferance.
- e) When the murder is determined by greed, by the pleasure of
causing death or suffering, for personal enjoyment or sexual
gratification or any other futile motive.
- f) When the murder is determined by racial, religious or
political hatred or motivated by the colour, ethnical or national
origin, sex or the sexual orientation of the victim.
- g) When the murder takes place in order to prepare, facilitate,
execute or dissimulate another crime, or to facilitate the escape
from the authorities.
- h) When the act is carried out in conjunction with, at least,
another two people or when an especially dangerous mean is used to
- i) When poison or any other insidious mean is used to cause
- j) When the intent to commit murder has persisted for longer
than 24 hours.
- l) When the victim is the holder of public office, a docent, a
minister of any religious cult, a judge or referee of any federated
sport, and the act is related and caused by the exercise of said
- m) When the murderer is a public servant (e.g. a police
officer) and the act takes place with serious abuse of
Other than homicide and aggravated homicide, the Penal Code also
has provisions for other forms of intentionally and unlawfully
causing someone's death:
- Privileged homicide (art. 133) - when the murder takes
place under an understandable violent emotion, compassion, despair
or other socially or morally relevant motive, such as to
significantly diminish the murderer's degree of guilt. Punishment
in this case is prison for 1 to 5 years.
- Homicide by request (art. 134) - when the murder is
carried out at the serious, constant and explicit request of the
victim. Punishment is prison for 6 months to 3 years.
- Inciting or assisting suicide (art. 135) - if someone
incites or assists another person to commit suicide, he or she is
sentenced to prison for 6 months to 3 years. The punishment is
increased to a prison term of 1 to 5 year, in the case the victim
is under 16 years old or has, in any way, his or her capacity
- Infanticide (art. 136) - when the mother, under the
disturbing influence of delivering the baby, commits murder while
delivering it, or immediately afterwards. Punishment is 1 to 5
- Abortion (art. 140) - abortion carried out without the
consent of the pregnant woman is punishable with imprisonment for 2
to 8 years. Abortion with the consent of the pregnant woman carries
a prison term of 6 months to 3 years; the same penalty applying to
the woman consenting to the abortion. However, abortion is not
punishable if carried out at a registered clinic or hospital, at
the request of the pregnant woman, until the tenth week of
pregnancy (or later, in some circumstances).
Manslaughter, which art. 136 of the Penal Code refers to as
homicide caused by negligence, is punishable with a prison term of
no less than 6 months and no longer than 3 years, or a fine. If the
death is caused by gross negligence the penalty the prison term is
of 6 months to 5 years.
Additionally, unintentionally causing someone's death while
committing a crime other than homicide is an aggravating factor in
the determination of the punishment applicable to that specific
crime. For example, if the crime of abandonment (exposing
a defenceless person to a situation in which he or she will not to
be able to cope with, therefore causing harm to the victim) results
in the victim's death, the punishment is 3 to 10 years
imprisonment, whereas the normal penalty would be 1 to 5 years. In
another example, aggravated assault resulting in the death
of the victim is punishable with 3 to 13 years imprisonment,
whereas the usual penalty would be 2 to 10 years.
Inmates are usually not required to serve fully their prison terms.
The Penal Code allows for the possibility of releasing them on
conditional liberty ("liberdade condicional"), or parole.
Parole is granted once one-half of the term has been served if both
the following requirements are met:
- One would reasonably expect the inmate, given the circumstances
of his or her life, previous conduct, personality and evolution
during incarceration, to behave in a socially responsible way
without committing crimes, if released.
- The release of the convict will not endanger the public order
nor aggravate the community.
If the second requirement is not met (which would be the case when
the particular crime has cause huge uproar in the community), the
inmate will be released once two-thirds of the prison term have
been served, as long as the inmate is reasonably expected to behave
in a socially responsible way without committing crimes, if
Even if the inmate is not expected to behave in a socially
responsible way, he or she is released once five sixths of the
prison terms have been served, unless the inmate refuses to be
Parole last for the remaining period of the unserved prison term,
but no longer than 5 years. Once the period of parole is fully
served in a satisfactory manner, the remaining unserved prison
sentence is declared void.
Status of convicts and felons
Convicts and felons may not suffer any effect from their criminal
conviction other than deprivation of liberty for the period of
incarceration, unless the sentence specifically establishes other
effects in a direct and reasonable relationship with the offence
committed. Convicts do not lose any right or entitlement due to
their conviction, namely political rights. In fact, on election day
polling stations are set up at the major prison establishments so
that inmates may exercise their right to vote, if they so
Any criminal conviction registered on the felon’s criminal record
is stricken after a certain period of time, depending on the
gravity of the offence. In the case of murder, this fact would be
stricken from the murderer's criminal record once 15 years have
elapsed from fully serving his or hers sentence without committing
any other offence.
to the Romanian Penal Code, a person can face a penalty
ranging from 10 to 25 years or life imprisonment for murder.
(There are also mandatory restrictions of some constitutional
rights for all types of murder.)
Degrees of murder
- Murder - (3rd degree)(10 to 20 years) Killing
a person when no aggravating circumstances apply.
- Qualified murder (2nd degree)(15 to 25
years). Aggravating circumstances:
- a) with premeditation
- b) concerning a material interest
- c) against spouse or close relative
- d) taking advantage of victim's impossibility of
- e) when putting in danger the lives of multiple persons
- f) concerning job attributions of the victim
- g) for facilitating or hiding another crime
- h) in public
- Extremely grave murder (1st degree) (15 to 25
years or life imprisonment).
- a) committed in a cruel way
- b) against two or more persons
- c) by a person who had already committed a murder
- d) in order to hide a robbery
- e) against a pregnant woman
- f) against a policeman, gendarme, magistrate or soldier (in
connection with their public duties)
- Negligent or accidental murder (1 to 5 years
in simple form). Aggravating circumstances:
- a) Caused by a professional in connection with his job for not
respecting the legal dispositions (2 to 7
- b) By a vehicle driver with blood alcohol concentration (BAC)
above legal limits or in a drunk state (5 to 15
- c) By a professional in a drunk state - in connection with his
job duties (5 to 15 years)
- d) When causing the death of two or more persons (5 to
- Infanticide (2 to 7 years).
to the modern Russian Criminal
Code, only intentional killing of another human considered
as a murder (Russian убийство). The following types
of murder are defined:
- Murder per se (article 105 of Criminal Code):
- common corpus delicti (with no aggravating circumstances listed
below). Punished with a sentence between 6 and 15 years
- qualified corpus delicti. Punished with a sentence between 8
and 20 years, or life, or death penalty. Aggravating
- a) against two or more persons;
- b) against person on public duty or their relatives;
- c) killing of hostage, kidnapped or helpless person;
- d) killing of pregnant;
- e) committed in a cruel way;
- f) committed in a socially dangerous way;
- g) motivated by a blood feud (vendetta);
- h) committed by a group;
- i) for a profit, including contract killing, or connected with
a robbery or racket;
- j) with a rowdy motive;
- k) to cover or secure another crime,
- l) connected with a rape or sexual assault;
- m) hate crime;
- n) with the view to use organs or tissues of victim.
- Privileged types of murder:
- Of newborn child by mother (article 106 of Criminal
Code), punished with a sentence up to 5 years.
- In affect state (art. 107), up to 3 years (up to 5 years for
- Exceeding reasonable level of self defense (art. 108), up to 2
There are some other articles of criminal code, that provide
special punishment for crimes connected with intentional kills:
- punished with a sentence between 15 and 20 years, or life.
- seizure of hostages;
- punished with a sentence between 12 and 20 years, or life, or
- encroachment on person on public or government duty;
- encroachment on law officer or soldier.
Separately considered actions that cause unpremeditated death of
- accident killing (art. 108, punished with a limitation of
freedom or imprisonment up to 5 years - depends on
- death in a traffic accident (art. 263-264, punished with an
imprisonment up to 9 years if aggravating circumstances such as
alcohol or drugs intoxication or multiply victims exist, also
provided disqualification from driving)
Assault that has no purpose to kill, but causes a death of victim,
formally is not considered as a murder, but punishment for it
almost not distinguished from common murder (art. 111 part 4
provides punishment with a sentence between 5 and 15 years, so only
lower limit of punishment slightly easier).
Article 110 of the criminal code also provides punishment for
driving a person to suicide (by blackmail, threats or
Murder (or its qualified types listed above) is only reason for the
death penalty in modern Russia. From 2
February 1999 till 1 January 2010 a moratorium on the death penalty
is in effect, with life sentence used instead.
Switzerland murder (Mord, Assassinat or
Assassinio respectively in German, French or Italian) is
also used for the premeditated killing of another person, but only
if the motives are cruel, disgusting or show an overall disrespect
of human life. Penalty ranges from ten years to life in
Furthermore, homicide is considered murder if it is cruel (e.g.
inflicts great pain on the victim) and/or unusual, done so using
explosives or arson, or if it is done to satisfy perverse
Any homicide not meeting these standards is considered to be a
killing (Tötung, Meurtre or Omicidio),
and the penalty is not as heavy. Most homicides in Switzerland are
considered killings, with the penalty ranging from 5 to 20
The Swiss equivalent for manslaughter is Totschlag,
Meurtre passionel or Omicidio passionale. Killers
are sentenced for Totschlag when they committed the crime
in a very, and especially excusable, state of excitement (a "crime
of passion"). For example, a wife who's been mistreated by her
husband for years, and kills him in a fit of rage, would be
sentenced for Totschlag. The penalty is one to ten years
There are many other privileged variants of killing, similar to
manslaughter, such as killing on demand of the "victim"; or
assisted suicide, in which case the punishment is considerably
lower; this latter is only punishable if there are selfish motives.
The "assisted suicide" in general is not punishable.
The relevant articles of the Swiss Penal Code (Strafgesetzbuch) are 111 to 117 (and in
a certain measure, 118 to 120), which can be read in the Swiss
Penal Code, second book, in French, Italian, or German.
Sweden, the following degrees of murder
- Murder (Mord) is defined as "taking the life of
another", and punishable with imprisonment for was until recently
10 years (now it's 18 years) or for
life. (3-1 § of the Penal Code)
- Manslaughter (Dråp) is
murder that is considered less serious, either due to the
circumstances or the crime itself, punishable with a fixed prison
term between 6 and 10 years. (3-2 §)
- Infanticide (Barnadråp) is
murder committed by a mother on her child "when, owing to her
confinement, she is in a disturbed mental state or in grave
distress", punishable with any prison term up to 6 years. (3-3
- Negligent homicide
(Vållande till annans död, literally causing another's
death) is murder committed due to carelessness. For negligent
homicide, there are three types of punishments:
- A fine (day-fines) if the crime is
- Any prison term up to 2 years, or
- Any prison term between 6 months and 6 years if the crime is
gross. Gross negligence is distinguished by "the taking of a
considerable risk leading to the death, or driving a motor vehicle
under influence leading to the death". (3-7 §)
The Swedish Minister of
Justice, Beatrice Ask, has recently
criticized the current system of punishment for murder, as "persons
eligible for sentences higher than 10 years instead are sentenced
to that term rather than life imprisonment". Instead, a term of 18
years imprisonment are considered to be inserted. Currently, the
murder and infanticide laws originate from 1962, while the law of
negligent homicide was altered in 1993.
States, the principle of dual
sovereignty applies to homicide, as to other crimes. If
murder is committed within the borders of a state, that state has jurisdiction. If the victim
is a federal
official, an ambassador, consul or other foreign official under the protection
of the United States, or if the crime took place on federal
property or involved crossing state lines, or in a manner that
substantially affects interstate
commerce or national security,
then the Federal Government also
has jurisdiction. If a crime is not committed within any
state, then Federal jurisdiction is exclusive: examples include the
Columbia, naval or U.S.-flagged
merchant vessels in
international waters, or a U.S.
military base. In cases where a murder involves both state
and federal jurisdiction, the offender can be tried and punished
separately for each crime without raising issues of double jeopardy, unless the court believes
that the new prosecution is merely a "sham" forwarded by the prior
Modern codifications tend to create a genus of offenses, known
collectively as homicide, of which
murder is the most serious species, followed by
manslaughter which is less serious, and ending finally in justifiable homicide, which is not a
crime at all. Because there are 51 jurisdictions, each with its own
criminal code, this section treats only the crime of murder, and
does not deal with state-by-state specifics.
At base, murder consists of an intentional unlawful act with a
design to kill and fatal consequences. Generally, an intention to
cause great bodily harm is considered indistinguishable from an
intention to kill, as is an act so inherently dangerous that any
reasonable person would realize
the likelihood of fatality. Thus, if the defendant hurled the
victim from a bridge, it is no defense to argue that harm was not
contemplated, or that the defendant hoped only to break
Murder is the unlawful killing of human being with malice aforethought. Malice can be
expressed (intent to kill) or implied. Implied malice is proven by
acts that involve reckless indifference to human life or in a death
that occurs during the commission of certain felonies (the felony
murder rule). The exact terms of the felony murder vary
tremendously from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Life sentencing for
murder in the United States has a mean of 349 months (29 years one
month) and a median of 480 months (40 years). However, some states'
sentencings contemplate a full life's confinement, whence the
sentence of confinement is not deemed fulfilled while the convicted
person lives; and the only way to fulfill the sentence (and thereby
obtain release from confinement) is by the individuals death. These
sentences are termed natural life and/or life without the
possibility of parole.
Degrees of murder in the United States
Before the famous case of Furman
v. Georgia in
1972, most states distinguished two degrees of murder. While the rules
differed by state, a reasonably common scheme was that of Pennsylvania, passed in 1794: "Murder which shall be perpetrated
by means of poison, or by lying in wait, or
by any other kind of willful, deliberate, and premeditated killing,
or which shall be committed in the perpetration or attempt to
perpetrate, any arson, rape, robbery, or burglary, shall be deemed murder of the first
degree (or capital murder in some states that carry the death penalty); and all other kinds of murder
shall be deemed murder of the second degree." "Murder one",
as the term was popularized by novels and
television, carried a penalty of death,
or life in prison, while the penalty for "murder two" was generally
around 80 years in prison. After the Supreme Court placed new
requirements on the imposition of the death penalty, most states adopted one of two
schemes. In both, third degree murder became the catch-all, while
first degree murder was split. The difference was whether some or
all first degree murders should be eligible for the most serious
penalty (generally death, but sometimes life in prison without the
possibility of parole).
first scheme, used by Pennsylvania and the most common among other states:
- #First Degree Murder: An intentional killing by means of
poison, or by lying in wait, or by any other kind of willful,
deliberate and premeditated action.
- #Second Degree Murder: Homicide committed by an individual
engaged as a principal or an accomplice in the perpetration of a
- #Third Degree Murder: Any other murder (e.g. when the intent
was not to kill, but to harm the victim).
- #First Degree Murder: Murder involving special circumstances,
such as murder of a police officer, judge, fireman or witness to a
crime; multiple murders; and torture or especially heinous murders.
Note that a "regular" premeditated murder, absent such special
circumstances, is not a first-degree murder; murders by poison or
"lying in wait" are not per se first-degree murders. First degree
murder is pre-meditated. However, the New York
Court of Appeals struck down the death
penalty as unconstitutional in
the case of People
v. LaValle, because of the statute's
direction on how the jury was to be instructed in case of deadlock
in the penalty phase.
- #Second Degree Murder: Any premeditated murder or felony murder
that does not involve special circumstances.
Schemes similar to Pennsylvania's are used in California and
Massachusetts. A scheme similar to New York's is used in Texas, but
first degree murder is called "capital murder".
Other states use the term "capital murder" for those offenses that
merit death, and the term is often used even in states whose
statutes do not include the term. As of 2009, 35 states and the
federal government have laws allowing capital punishment for
certain murders and related crimes (such as treason, terrorism, and
espionage). The penalty is rarely asked
for and more rarely imposed, but it has generated tremendous public
debate. See also capital
punishment and capital punishment in
the United States.
In death penalty-states with the New-York scheme, first degree
murder itself is eligible for the death penalty. In death
penalty-states with the Pennsylvania scheme, first-degree murder
must involve an additional aggravating factor for being eligible
for the death penalty.
Punishment for murder
|Second degree murder
||Imprisonment for life or any term
|Second degree murder by an inmate, even escaped, serving a life
|First degree murder
||Death or life imprisonment
Fetal homicide in the United States
Under the common law, an assault on a
pregnant woman resulting in a stillbirth
was not considered murder; the child had to have breathed at least
once to be a human being. Remedies were limited to
criminal penalties for the assault on the mother and tort action for loss of the anticipated economic
services of the lost child and/or for emotional pain and suffering.
With the widespread adoption of laws against abortion, the assailant could be charged with that
offense, but the penalty was often only a fine and a few days in
Fetal homicide laws in the United
Supreme Court greatly reduced laws prohibiting abortions in
Roe v. Wade (1973) those sanctions became harder to
use. This meant that an assault which ensured that the baby never
breathed would result in a lesser charge. Various states passed
"fetal homicide" laws, making killing of an unborn child murder;
the laws differ about the stage of development at which the child
is protected. After several well-publicized cases, Congress passed the Unborn Victims of Violence
Act, which specifically criminalizes harming a fetus, with the
same penalties as for a similar attack upon a person, when the
attack would be a federal offense. Most such attacks fall under
state laws; for instance, Scott
Peterson was convicted of killing his unborn son as well as his
wife under California's pre-existing fetal homicide law.
Vikings (8th to 11th centuries)
The Viking culture had a very different
concept of murder. If a person killed someone, then it was up to
the murderer 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.
In Nordic countries, the payment of
weregild was used in homicide cases until the 16th century.
The only other type of killing with consequences in Viking culture
was "unjust killing", i.e. killing someone while they were sleeping
or had their back to the killer. While the financial implications
of unjust killing were no more severe, the killer in question
suffered from a tremendous loss of trust and could be declared an
- Definition of murderer in
Merriam Webster's Online Dictionary (2009). Retrieved
- Usage note for -ess in The
American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth
Edition (2000). Retrieved on 2009-05-17.
- Vulgate Deuteronomy Ch27 V24
- Parallel Hebrew Old Testament Deuteronomy
- Parallel Hebrew Old Testament Exodus
- Killing in the Bible. AllExperts.com.
- American Speech - McCarthy, Kevin M.. Volume 48, pp.
- Secret Societies Handbook, Michael Bradley,Altair Cassell
Illustrated, 2005. ISBN 978-1844034161
- Thug: the true story of India's murderous cult by
Mike Dash, The Independent
- Thuggee (Thagi) (13th C. to ca. 1838)
- Hassig, Ross (2003). "El sacrificio y las guerras floridas".
Arqueología mexicana, p.
- The Enigma of Aztec Sacrifice
- Science and Anthropology
- Blackstone, Book 4, Chapter 14
- A Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage By Bryan A. Garner, pg.
- Margaret Otlowski, Voluntary Euthanasia and the
Common Law, Oxford University Press, 1997, pp.
- R. v. M'Naughten, get full cite.
- , note: this text refer to the procedure of Involuntary
commitment by the demand of the public authority, but the
prefect systematically use that procedure whenever a man is
discharged due to his dementia.
- Appel, Jacob M. When Infanticide Isn't Murder
- Proposed Texas House bill would recognize
postpartum psychosis as a defense for moms who kill
- (the so-called "Twinkie defense").
- Rogers v. Tennessee, .
- WHO: 1.6 million die in violence annually
- FBI web site
- Brazil murder rate similar to war zone, data
- Colombia's Uribe wins second term
- Twentieth Century Atlas - Homicide
- Jamaica "murder capital of the world"
- Canada's National Statistical Agency:Homicides
- Crime Statistics
- Disaster Center web site
- Why Fewer Murder Cases Get Solved These Days by
Lewis Beale. 19 May 2009.
- CS Monitor by Brian Whitley. Christian Science
Monitor. 24 Dec 2008.
- Crimes Act 1900 - Section 18 Murder and
- Crimes Act 1900 §§ 27-30
- Crimes Act 1900 § 23
- Crimes Act 1958 - Section 3B Provocation no longer
a partial defence to murder
- Criminal Code of Canada, s. 222
- Criminal Code of Canada, s. 229
- Criminal Code of Canada, R.S., 1985, c. C-46, s.
231; R.S., 1985, c. 27 (1st Supp.), ss. 7, 35, 40, 185(F), c. 1
(4th Supp.), s. 18(F); 1997, c. 16, s. 3, c. 23, s. 8; 2001, c. 32,
s. 9, c. 41, s. 9.
- Criminal Code
- Criminal Code of Canada, R.S., c. C-34, s.
- Criminal Code of Canada, R.S., c. C-34, s.
- R. v. Nette
- 2520Sentencing%2520continued Parole eligibility,
secs 745, 745.1
- Youth Criminal Justice Act, ss
- Chinese Penalty Law (Simplified Chinese)
- Law Reform Act
- House of Lords - Regina v.
- For more details, see Armin Meiwes.
- Offences Against the Person Ordinance (Cap.212) s.33C
-  3 HKC 146
- Offences Against the Person Ordinance (Cap.212) s.2
- Israeli government web sitePdf
- French language version of Swiss Penal Code
- Italian language version of Swiss Penal Code
- German language version of Swiss Penal Code
- 1998 version of the Penal Code
- Koon v. United States, 518 U.S. 81 (1996)
- US Dept. of Justice: Felony Defendants in Large
Urban Counties, 2002
- Electronic Law Library definition
- See, e.g., N.Y.State Penal Law section 125.27, found
at N.Y. State Legislative web site (search for Penal
Law § 125.27).
- See, e.g., N.Y. State Penal Law section 125.25, found
at N.Y. State Legislative web site (search for Penal
Law § 125.25).
- May Damages Be Recovered by a Non-Resident Alien for the Death
of a Son? University of Pennsylvania Law Review and American
Law Register, Vol. 57, No. 3, Volume 48 New Series (December
1908), pages 171-173 doi:10.2307/3313315