Murder is the unlawful killing of one human being by another human being with malice aforethought. “Malice aforethought” means in a particularly evil or heinous state of mind. Malice aforethought does not mean that the murder though about killing the victim beforehand or even meant to kill him or her. Rather, malice aforethought includes all of the following situations:
- Intentionally killing the victim. One person deliberately, and without legal justification, takes the life of another person—a murder in “cold blood.”
- Intending to harm the victim seriously. Doug beats Jerry over the head with a lead pipe, intending only to knock Jerry out, but not to kill him. If Jerry dies of the injuries inflicted by Doug, Doug is guilty of murder. This is because of the likelihood that death can result from a serious injury.
- Killing someone during the course of a dangerous felony, such as a burglary, robbery, rape, or arson. For example, during a bank robbery (actually, a burglary), the bank guard draws his gun and is shot and killed by the felon. Even though he was acting to save his own life, the felon is guilty of murder. The felon was committing a dangerous felony and in effect invited this type of reaction from the guard. Committing a killing during the course of a dangerous felony is known as the “felony-murder rule.”
- Doing something that has a high risk of death or serious injury, in disregard of the consequences. Suppose Ben shoots into a crowd but doesn’t intend to shoot anyone in particular; indeed, he may not intend to shoot anyone at all. The bullet strikes a young girl and kills her. Or suppose Ben shoots at a passing train full of commuters and kills someone he never even saw. In both examples, Ben is guilty of murder because of the strong probability that his act would kill or seriously hurt someone. This type of murder is called a “depraved heart” killing.
- Killing a police officer while resisting arrest. A person who kills a police officer while resisting a lawful arrest is guilty of murder, even if the person didn’t intend to kill the officer.
If you have been arrested and charged with a crime, contact a criminal defense attorney in Sacramento Richard Allaye Chan Jr. for free consultation. Call (916) 446-4400 today.
Allaye Chan Law – Criminal Defense
1000 G Street, Suite 220
Sacramento, CA 95814