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Understanding Murder in Middlesex County

Murder in Middlesex

In Middlesex County, murder is a felony. It involves the intentional, deliberate, attempt, or actual killing of a living person. When a person kills someone, whatever the intent or circumstances, it is generally described as a homicide. However, knowingly and purposely killing someone or causing such substantial bodily harm that the person later dies due to those injuries is murder.

What constitutes a living person in Middlesex County is complex. For instance, unplugging the respirator from a patient that has been declared brain dead, but is still breathing, does not constitute murder. Under Massachusetts law, a person is considered dead when all functions of their entire brain irreversibly stop.

What is First-Degree Murder in Middlesex County?

First-Degree Murder in Middlesex County is the unjustified, deliberate, and premeditated killing of a person. It also involves killing another person with extreme cruelty or atrocity or in the course of committing a crime that is punishable by death or life imprisonment. Under Massachusetts law, the prosecution must prove some of the following elements before the court can convict the accused of first-degree murder:

  • Premeditated Killing: the accused must have initially intended to kill the victim before carrying out the murder. The accused’s actions were planned out rather than spontaneous. The law does not provide a specific length of time for this premeditation. The element is proven as long as the accused had some time to weigh their actions before committing the crime.
  • Malice Aforethought: The prosecution must prove that the accused intended to cause serious bodily harm or mortal injury with no legal justification like self-defense. This means that the accused was reasonably aware that their actions were likely to result in death or cause serious harm to the victim.
  • Extreme Atrocity or Cruelty: This element applies to murder that is particularly brutal or savage. One of the factors considered to prove extreme cruelty is the amount of conscious pain and suffering the victim experienced, the accused's disregard of it. Other factors include the severity of the victim's physical injuries, the number of times the accused struck the victim with a weapon or instrument, and the type of instrument or weapon used. If the prosecution can prove this element, it is sufficient to convict the accused. In such cases, the prosecution need not prove premeditation.
  • Felony Murder: This applies to killings done during the commission of an offense punishable with life imprisonment or death. An instance is when a person kills another while committing a bank robbery. In such cases, the prosecution does not have to establish a prior intention to kill. However, the prosecution must prove the necessary elements of the alleged felony and that the death was a natural and probable result of the felony.

The penalty for first-degree murder in Middlesex County is life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. The punishment for any person who commits first-degree murder while between the age of fourteen and eighteen is life imprisonment in the state prison with the possibility of parole.

What is Second-Degree Murder in Middlesex County?

Second-degree murder in Middlesex County is any killing committed with the intent to inflict serious bodily harm or kill but without any premeditation. For a person to be convicted of second-degree murder in Middlesex County, the prosecution must prove that:

  • The accused unlawfully killed someone.
  • The accused killed the person with malice but with no premeditation, or
  • The accused committed murder while committing a felony that is not punishable by death or life imprisonment, such as burglary

In proving that the accused killed the victim with malice, the prosecution must establish that the accused's intent was to cause serious bodily harm, not necessarily death, to the victim where there was no legal justification to do so.

Where the accused killed a person in the course of committing a felony not punishable by death or life imprisonment, the prosecution does not have to prove that the killing was intentional or with malice. They only need to establish the elements of the alleged felony and that the killing was a consequence of committing that felony.

A classic example of second-degree murder is a man discovering that his wife is cheating on him and killing her in a fit of anger while confronting her. However, if the man discovers the affair and takes some time to plan his wife’s murder, the act becomes first-degree murder since it was premeditated.

The penalty for second-degree murder in Middlesex County is imprisonment in the state prison for life with the possibility of parole after a specified number of years fixed by the court.

There are two major differences between being charged with first-degree murder and standing trial for second-degree murder. One is that a first-degree murder defendant does not have the right to waive a jury trial, while a second-degree murder defendant does. Secondly, a first-degree murder conviction sets off an automatic appeal before the Supreme Judicial Court while a second-degree murder conviction does not.

What is Third-Degree Murder in Middlesex County?

In certain states, third-degree murder is the unintentional killing of a person while committing a dangerous act. However, in Middlesex County, the law only provides for first and second-degree murder. An unintentional killing in Middlesex County is prosecuted as manslaughter.

What is Manslaughter in Middlesex County?

Manslaughter in Middlesex County is the mistaken, unintentional, or neglectful act of a person that results in the death of another. Unlike murder, manslaughter does not include the element of intent or premeditation.

The penalty for manslaughter in Middlesex County is a maximum of twenty years imprisonment in the state prison, or two and a half years in jail or a house of correction, or a maximum fine of $1,000.

In Middlesex County, there are two major types of manslaughter, namely, voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter.

What is Vehicular Manslaughter?

Vehicular manslaughter is the killing of a person while operating a motor vehicle negligently or recklessly. In Middlesex County, it is generally referred to as motor vehicle homicide and may be charged as a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the facts.

Felony motor vehicle homicide applies to the killing of a person while operating a motor vehicle on a public way either recklessly or negligently and while under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or other intoxicating substances. To convict the accused, the prosecution must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • The accused was operating a motor vehicle at the time of the crime
  • The accused was operating the motor vehicle on a public way or in a place where members of the general public have a right to access
  • The accused was driving the motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or other intoxicating substances and operated the motor vehicle in a reckless or negligent manner
  • The actions of the accused caused the death of the victim

It is important to note that the prosecution must prove that the accused was both intoxicated and reckless or negligent in operating the motor vehicle at the time of the offense. Proving intoxication alone does not create a legal presumption of recklessness or negligence.

The penalty for felony motor vehicle homicide is 2 ½ years to 15 years imprisonment in the state prison and a maximum fine of $5,000 or 1 to 2 ½ in a jail or house of correction and a maximum fine of $5,000.

A misdemeanor motor vehicle homicide involves killing a person while operating a motor vehicle either as a result of a reckless or negligent operation or due to operating while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The prosecution must prove that:

  • The accused was operating a motor vehicle at the time of the offense
  • The operation of the motor vehicle was on a public way or where members of the public have a right of access
  • The accused was either operating under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or intoxicating substances or was operating recklessly or negligently in a way that endangers the lives and safety of the public
  • The actions of the accused led to the death of the victim.

The penalty for misdemeanor motor vehicle homicide is 30 days to 2 ½ in a jail or house of correction or a fine of between $300 and 3,000 dollars, or both such fine and imprisonment.

What is Voluntary Manslaughter?

Voluntary manslaughter in Middlesex County is the killing of another in the heat of passion after emotional excitement or reasonable provocation. The killing was intentional and would have been murder if not for the element of provocation. Voluntary manslaughter also includes a killing that occurs during a mutual fight or combat.

The provocation must be reasonable. This means that any reasonable person would have acted in a manner similar to that of the accused under the same circumstances. Additionally, the killing must have been done in the heat of passion before the accused had the chance to calm down.

Voluntary manslaughter is also an unlawful killing which means that the accused had no legal justification for their actions. They were not acting in self-defense or in defense of another. Even if the accused acted in self-defense, they may still be guilty of voluntary manslaughter if they used excessive force.

The prosecution must prove that;

  • The accused battered the victim in a manner that was likely to result in death.
  • The injury caused the victim's death.
  • The accused killed the victim unlawfully with no legal justification

What is Involuntary Manslaughter?

Involuntary manslaughter is the unlawful unintentional killing of a person due to wanton or reckless conduct or while committing dangerous battery. As an accidental killing, involuntary manslaughter lacks the element of intent to cause the victim’s death.

Involuntary manslaughter also lacks legal justification. This means that no circumstance could have rendered the act a non-criminal killing. An instance of legal justification is self-defense.

Wanton or reckless conduct as relating to involuntary manslaughter is an act that has a high probability of causing substantial harm to another person. Instances of this include texting and driving, speeding excessively, intentionally driving a vehicle with faulty brakes, and driving at night without turning on the headlights.

For a person to be guilty of involuntary manslaughter from the commission of a battery, the contact or touching involved must have been so violent that serious and substantial harm was most likely to result. The act must have been obviously very dangerous, such that the accused knew or ought to have known that it would endanger human life.

What Type of Lawyer do I Need for a Murder Charge in Middlesex County?

. Murder charges are usually prosecuted aggressively by highly trained, skilled, and experienced prosecutors. Anyone accused of a murder charge in Middlesex County needs a criminal defense lawyer that can match these characteristics.

Beating a murder charge requires both technical skills in that area of law and experience in handling such cases. The right defense lawyer can build a defense strategy that may lead to a dismissal or reduction of the charges, including,

  • Self-defense or defense of another: Massachusetts law allows a person to use reasonable force to defend themselves and others if they believe there is an imminent danger of great bodily harm or death. Proof of self-defense in a murder trial may result in a dismissal of the charges. In trying to establish self-defense, the defense must prove that the accused believed they needed to use immediate force to protect themselves or another from imminent harm and that they used only as much force as was necessary.
  • Insanity: A person who was considered insane at the time of the offense lacks the required state of mind for malice aforethought. This means that the necessary element of intent is absent from the situation. The court may test the sanity of the accused by examining whether they understand the nature and quality of their actions and whether they can distinguish between right and wrong. Successfully establishing this defense leads to a not guilty by reason of insanity verdict.
  • Alibi: The attorney in using this defense maintains the innocence of the accused. The defense of alibi asserts that the accused was not at the location of the crime at the time the alleged offense was committed. The defense may use forensic and physical evidence, as well as testimonies from witnesses, to establish an alibi.
  • Unlawfully seized evidence: If law enforcement agents failed to carry out a lawful search and seizure, the defense attorney may file a motion to suppress the evidence. Successfully arguing this motion may lead to the exclusion of such evidence from the trial. This may lead to either a reduction in the charges or a complete dismissal of the case.
  • Factual impossibility: The circumstances of the case may make an intended crime impossible to complete. For instance, murdering a person the law already recognizes as dead. In such cases, the defense may raise the defense of factual impossibility. Successfully establishing this defense may lead to the charges being reduced or dismissed.
  • Accidental killing: A murder conviction requires the element of malice aforethought. If the accused had no malicious intent to kill, the defense may assert that the killing was accidental. If this is proven, the murder charge may be reduced to voluntary or involuntary manslaughter or completely dismissed depending on the facts of the case.
  • Killing in the heat of passion: Under Massachusetts law, killing a person while in the heat of passion does not constitute murder. If the accused was reasonably provoked, they might have a valid defense against the murder charges. Proving that the accused killed in the heat of passion does not result in a dismissal of the murder charges. However, the charges are reduced to voluntary manslaughter, which has a lesser penalty.
  • Automatism: if the accused was not in control of their bodily movements while committing the act, the defense may assert automatism. Instances of such cases include sleepwalking, epilepsy, and some kinds of concussions. It, however, does not include self-induced intoxication. The defense of automatism may lead to a complete dismissal of the murder case.