Murder is a form of homicide. The unlawful taking of human life. Homicides include murder and manslaughter, and both are viewed differently in the eyes of the law. A person who kills another while acting in self-defense is not guilty of murder. Otherwise, the homicide will be classified as either murder or manslaughter.

To be convicted with murder, it must be shown that the defendant had a particular state of mind – this is referred to as malice aforethought.  This can come in two forms: expressed malice or implied malice. A defendant who intended to kill and premeditated the killing acts with express malice, which is considered 1st degree murder. For second degree murder to apply the defendant must act in a manner that is inherently dangerous to human life, but with out premeditation and deliberation.

Justifiable Homicide

If a person kills another person because they perceived danger to their own life or thought someone else’s life was in jeopardy, the murder is a justifiable. This rule applies if any other reasonable person would have acted in the same way or would have perceived the same danger. The defendant must also show that they did not use any more force than necessary to defend themselves or another. If these things were proven true, self-defense is one way that a killing is justified in the eyes of the court.

In a self-defense case, the actual imminent danger is not what is important, but the perception of it.  The defendant must have felt that their life was in immediate danger and acted out of that fear. The defendant who can establish these facts, may be found not guilty of murder.

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