Under common law, murder is the unlawful killing of another person with malice aforethought. The intent to kill, to do serious bodily harm,to commit a felony, and outrageous recklessness constitutes common law murder. Under the typical state view, criminal law will take a step further and will measure the degree of the murder. Under the typical state view, the law will first ask whether there was a common law murder. Then, the law measures the culpability of the murder in the first degree or second degree. Tulsa Lawyers Group offers free consultations to those charged with murder in Oklahoma.
First Degree Murder:
Murder in the first degree is a willful, deliberate killing and includes premeditation. The court utilizes factors to determine whether there was in fact premeditation such as the want of provocation, threats, declarations, ill-will between parties, brutal manner, nature and the number of wounds, conduct, and the statements of the defendant. On the other hand, any unlawful killing of another person with malice aforethought that is not willful, with premeditation, or deliberate is murder in the second degree.
The common law also recognizes manslaughter. If the malice can mitigate, the defendant may be able to push for manslaughter instead of murder. In order to argue voluntary manslaughter, the defendant must satisfy the provocation test. The provocation test states that the defendant must have been provoked, the provocation must have been adequate, there must not have been an adequate cooling off period, there must be a causal connection between the killing, passion, and provocation, and at the time of the killing the defendant must still have been angry and provoked. The law does not presume adequate provocation from words alone. In fact, the law requires that adequate provocation be of the nature to inflame the reasonable person to act out of passion rather than reason.
Felony Murder Rule:
Felony murder rule is the doctrine that allows the state to prosecute a defendant if during the commission of a felony; there was murder on the scene. Under the felony murder doctrine, the state no longer carries the burden of showing the necessary mens rea. If the felony was that of an enumerated felony, the defendant will be charged under murder in the first degree. The enumerated felonies are arson, rape, robbery, sodomy, burglary, and kidnapping. If the felony was not enumerated, the defendant will be charged under murder in the second degree. However, the felony murder rule doctrine is subject to three exceptions.
Exceptions To Felony Murder Rule:
The first exception, inherently dangerous, applies only to murder in the second degree charges. The felony must have been inherently dangerous in order to hold the defendant criminally responsible for the death. To determine this, the court looks to the elements of the crime, without regard to the defendant. Then, the court will determine whether the crime by its very nature could occur without substantially creating the risk of death.
The next exception is The Merger Doctrine. The Merger exception states, if the felony is an integral part and included in the fact of the homicide then there will not be felony murder unless the defendant had an independent felonious intent. Basically, if the defendant intended to kill another person, there will not be felony murder. Thus the state will have the burden of proving the mens rea of murder. The merger exception applies to both first and second degree murder.
The last exception is agency. Under the majority view, the doctrine requires that the defendant be the person who physically killed the individual. On the other hand, in Oklahoma, we hold the minority view. The minority view is the proximate cause approach to agency. This view states that if the defendant put into motion the chain of events that led to the murder, then the defendant receives charges under felony murder.
Self Defense and Murder:
Self-defense is a justification defense. Under common law, the defendant must have reasonably feared imminent, unlawful, and serious bodily harm or death and reasonably believed that deadly force was necessary in order to raise self-defense. The law does impose further restrictions on self-defense and the use of deadly force. The Initial Aggressor rule states that there is no self-defense if the defendant was the initial aggressor unless the defendant effectively communicated withdraw.
Further, the duty to retreat may be present where there is an avenue of apparent safety and the jurisdiction does not have “Stand Your Ground” laws already in place. However, in most state, stand your ground rules are in place to preserve an individual’s right not to retreat. The castle doctrine further holds an individual has no duty to retreat inside his or her dwelling or workplace. However, the aggressor must be an outside aggressor.