Murder Vs. Manslaughter

The Difference Between Murder and Manslaughter

Have you ever wondered what the difference between murder and manslaughter is?  Why do we not have a simpler legal system that calls all ending of life murder?  Well, following up on a previous post, one of the major reasons for that difference boils down to intent.

Definitions

Law.com defines murder as

the killing of a human being by a sane person, with intent, malice aforethought (prior intention to kill the particular victim or anyone who gets in the way) and with no legal excuse or authority.

Manslaughter, on the other hand is

the unlawful killing of another person without premeditation or so-called “malice aforethought” (an evil intent prior to the killing).

That is, the difference between murder and manslaughter has to do with whether the death that happened was planned or unplanned.  On one hand, murder, by definition, implies a malicious motive that embodies the choice to end someone’s life.  On the other hand, manslaughter deals more with circumstantial death that had no malicious thought or planning beforehand.

John Choate, Jr – Attorney at Law

How Prosecution Teams Determine Intent

How Prosecution Teams Determine Intent

Prosecuting attorneys must weigh several elements in any court case.  Of these elements, intent can be one of the most difficult to prove.  Indeed, it can pose a challenge because the lion’s share of intent occurs in the mind of the accused.

Yet, even with the level of internal dialogue, there are a number of markers that prosecutors can use to infer or prove intent.

Defining Intent

For our purposes, U.S. Legal describes intent as:

…a determination to perform a particular act or to act in a particular manner. Intent is usually based on a specific reason. It is an aim, design or a resolution to use a certain means to reach an end.

Put differently, intent is the choice to perform a given task or to behave a certain way.  Intent is the reasoning behind a certain action.

The law recognizes three types of criminal intent:

  • General/Basic Intent: Intent that is proven from the act itself (such as speeding).
  • Specific Intent: Intent that is rooted in replanning (such as in burglary).
  • Constructed Intent: Intent that is built upon the unforeseen effects of an action, as with a pedestrian death that arises from negligent driving.

While general intent is sufficient for such crimes as speeding, one must ferret out specific intent in the case of burglary and attempted murder.

Proving Intent

What goes into proving intent?  Well, in a court of law, two types of evidence are admissible.

  • Direct Evidence: Evidence that arises from witnessing a crime or hearing from those who have direct knowledge of a particular crime.
  • Circumstantial Evidence: Evidence that arises through reasoning from the facts of a crime to truths that can be inferred.

Put another way, Direct Evidence means someone saw it happen and tells what they saw.  Circumstantial Evidence, on the other hand, comes from piecing the events of the crime back together and drawing clues through logic and deduction.

Intent can be proven based on any number of dynamics. Some dynamics considered include:

  • Behavior of those involved.
  • The placing of objects, such as clothing, weapons, prints, bodily discharges, etc.
  • The time the incident occurred.
  • Who was present or absent at the scene of the crime.

If you or someone you love has been charged with a crime in Montgomery County, you should seek a qualified attorney such as John Choate, who can handle your case with skill.  Contact Attorney John Choate at Conroe Law Office.