Murder is one of the most heinous crimes committed. The taking of another life is treated seriously in all jurisdictions. Yet, not all homicides are murder. So when is a homicide murder, and what separates first- and second-degree murder in Oklahoma?
What is Second-Degree Murder in Okmulgee?
In Oklahoma, a homicide is deemed to be murder in the second degree when the killing is done by an act that is imminently dangerous to another person. The killer may show a “depraved mind” or a careless disregard or indifference for human life. Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 701.8
“Depraved mind” can be shown when a person engages in imminently dangerous conduct with a reckless disregard for, and in total indifference to, the life and safety of another person.
A depraved mind can be evil or corrupt, but it does not equate the premeditation that is the hallmark of first-degree murder.
Second-degree murder can also be charged when the killing occurs during the commission of a felony.
Second-Degree Murder: Elements of the Crime
Every element of a crime must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt for there to be a conviction. Lacking sufficient proof often leads to a dismissal or plea bargain for a lesser offense.
The elements of second-degree murder are:
- the death of a person;
- caused by imminently dangerous conduct;
- of the defendant;
- the conduct evinced a depraved mind in extreme disregard of human life; and
- the conduct is not done with the intention of taking the life of any particular individual. (OUJI-CR 4-91)
Facts that disprove any required element of the crime constitute a defense to the crime.
Imminently dangerous conduct is conduct which a reasonable person would consider to be immediate and have a very high degree of risk of death to another person. Shooting a gun into a crowd of people is an immediate threat and carries a high degree of likelihood that another person will be injured or killed. There is no premeditation in the act, just a reckless disregard for the life and safety of others.
Absence of Premeditation
First-degree murder requires an intent to murder, or what is often called “malice aforethought.” This is premeditation. Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 701.7
Second-degree murder requires that the death occur without premeditation — the death occurs without intent.
The statutory penalty for second-degree murder in Oklahoma is from 10 years to life in prison. Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 701.9
In addition, murder is one of the crimes enumerated in the 85% Rule in Oklahoma. Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 13.1
Under this rule, if sentenced, you must serve at least 85 percent of your sentenced time.
Defenses To Second-Degree Murder
Innocence is always a defense as is self-defense. If the killing occurs in self-defense, the killing is justified. Facts are critical in a self-defense claim.
Murder charges carry stiff penalties in Oklahoma. If you are facing charges for second-degree murder, don’t go it alone. Hire an experienced Okmulgee criminal law attorney.
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