Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index


Please note: Wikipedia does not give legal advice.

Murder is the crime of intentionally causing the death of another human being, without lawful excuse. When an illegal death was not caused intentionally, but was caused by recklessness or negligence (or there is some defense, such as diminished capacity), the crime committed is manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide, which are considered to be less serious than murder. Manslaughter is often broken into two categories: involuntary manslaughter and voluntary manslaughter.

A difficult issue in defining murder is what counts as causing death. It is impossible to give a precise definition of this, but some legal principles have been developed to help. For example, many common law jurisdictions abide by the year and a day rule, which provides that one is to be held responsible for a person's death only if they die within a year and a day of the act. Thus, if you seriously injured someone, and they died from their injuries within a year and a day, you would be guilty of murder; but you would not be guilty if they died from their injuries after a year and a day had passed.

It is not murder to kill someone with lawful excuse; lawful excuses include killing enemy combatants in time of war (but not after they surrendered), killing a person who poses an immediate threat to the lives of ones self or others (i.e., in self-defence), and executing a person in accordance with a sentence of death (in those jurisdictions which use capital punishment). Sometimes extreme provocation or duress can justify killing another as well. These cases of killing are called justifiable homicide.

Under English law (and the law of other countries, such as Australia, which pay close heed to the decisions of British courts), it is murder to kill another human being for food, even if without doing so one would die of starvation. This originated in a case of three shipwrecked sailors cast adrift off the coast of South Africa in the 1920s; two of the sailors conspired to kill the other sailor, and having killed him ate his flesh to survive.

Most countries allow conditions that "affect the balance of the mind" to be regarded as mitigating circumstances against murder. 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 they were suffering from a condition that affected their judgement at the time. Depression, Post-traumatic stress disorder and medication side-effects are examples of conditions that may be taken into account when assessing responsibility.

Also, some countries, such as Canada, Italy, the United Kingdom and Australia, allow post-partum depression, or 'baby-blues', as a defense against murder of a child by a mother, provided that a child is less than a year old.

Table of contents
1 Canada
2 The United States
3 Germany
4 See also
5 External link


Canada has about 550 murders per year, a number that is steadily decreasing. This is equivalent to numbers in most of the western world, except the U.S. which has triple the number per capita. The main methods of murder in Canada are shootings (30%), stabbings (30%), and beatings (22%).

Canada has four types of crime that can be considered murder:

For every murder in Canada there are about 1.5 attempted murders.

About one in three Canadian murders are committed by a family member. One in eight is gang related. About 80% of murderers in Canada are caught within a year.

(All statistics are from the 2001 census)

The United States

In the United States, murder, or "homicide", is normally a state crime, and a murder suspect will be arrested and held by local officials and his trial will occur in a state court. Most murders are not federal crimes, in which the trial would occur in a federal court.

The term First-degree murder or murder in the first degree refers to premeditated murder, or murder which occurs after some degree of reflection by the murderer. This reflection can be years or less than a second. Second-degree murder or voluntary manslaughter refers to murder which occurs after "adequate provocation." Third-degree murder, also known as manslaughter, occurs without the specific intent to kill, but usually after an act of criminal negligence or some other act resulting in a person's death.

Despite the large amount of attention that the media in the United States devote to murder trials -- in news programming, movies, theater, and television dramas alike -- fewer people are murdered each year in the United States than die from suicide, from motor vehicle injuries, or from AIDS.

Felony Murder Statutes

Many jurisdictions in the United States have also adopted felony murder statutes, according to which anyone who commits a serious crime (a felony), during which a person dies, is guilty of murder. This applies even if one is not actually responsible for the person's death; for example, a driver for an armed robbery can be convicted of murder if one of the robbers killed someone in the process of the robbery, even though the driver was not (directly, at least) responsible for this person's death.

Capital Murder

Capital murder is murder which is punishable by death. 38 states in the United States, and the federal government itself, have laws allowing capital punishment for this crime. Depending on the state, a murder may qualify as "capital murder" if (a) the person murdered was of a special class, such as a police officer; (b) "special circumstances" occurred in the crime, such as multiple murder, the use of poison, or "lying in wait" in order to murder the victim. Capital murder is quite rare in the United States compared to other murder convictions, but it has generated tremendous public debate. See generally capital punishment.


In Germany the term mord (murder) is officially used for the killing of a human person

  1. for murder desire, satisfaction of the sex impulse, greed or other low motives
  2. or insidiously or cruelly
  3. or by means dangerous to the public
  4. or to cover or aid another criminal offense

A killing which is not a murder may be either totschlag (manslaughter) or negligent killing. The penalty for mord is lifelong imprisonment (i.e. at least fifteen years), the penalty for totschlag five to fifteen years imprisonment.

See also

External link