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Criminal Conduct: Term Definition

Elements of Murder

Criminal acts that lead to bodily harm or even death attract much interest from different states. A proof of murder requires the substantiation of the intent to kill or even cause grievous harm to an individual (Schmalleger, Hall & Dolatowski, 2005). First-degree murder requires verification of willfulness to kill, foresight, and premeditation (Shankland, 2010). States also require evidence of aforethought malice, although the proof of this element differs from one state to another, especially on whether it constitutes an important aspect in attestation of intent, deliberation, and premeditation. Willfulness to kill implies the intent to take life. In a case that involves murder, a claim that a person who is facing murder criminal charges killed the wrong person does not constitute a defense. However, as a rule, premeditation and deliberative elements do not imply that perpetrators needed to plan or even desire to end life (Shankland, 2010). While the actual act of killing may take place very fast, premeditation and deliberation occur before the real act is done. It takes time to justify the act of murder in terms of the victim’s state of mind when he or she terminated the life of another person.

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Voluntary and Involuntary Murder

People who face murder charges may cite manslaughter as a defense, which entails killing people in a less culpable way compared to murder (Schmalleger, Hall & Dolatowski, 2005). Involuntary murder happens when an individual causes the death of an individual accidentally. People are found guilty of a crime if another person dies due to an act of the first party, if the act is dangerous or was executed in a reckless manner without due consideration of the value of human life. However, the act must not be felonious. The defendant also needs to have awareness that his or her actions will harm other people’s lives (Schmalleger, Hall & Dolatowski, 2005). Voluntary manslaughter occurs when the accused has no prior intent of killing, despite the actual act of killing having taken place in the “heat of passion” (Shankland, 2010, p.1227). Circumstances that translate into killing must cause people who act in the most reasonable sense to become emotionally and mentally charged and/or disturbed.

Aforethought Malice and the Proximate Cause

The interpretation of the concept of the aforethought malice varies in different jurisdictions. However, it generally entails evil dispositions and indifferences in the treatment of the value for human life. In some jurisdictions in the US, it implies killing with a predetermined intent (Shankland, 2010). Proximate cause refers to all events that relate adequately to injuries that are recognized in the eyes of the law. It is essentially a legal limitation to the cause-in-fact principle, which overrules chances of occurrence of harm if a certain action is executed. For instance, when police officers shoot a running thieve, such death might not have occurred if the thieve did not steal. In this sense, stealing is the proximate cause of the thief’s death.

Felony Murder Rule

In some cases that involve murder, some states apply the principle of ‘felony murder rule’. Under the rule, people commit murder if they jointly acerbate arson, burglary, abduction, and any crime that leads to death, whether accidental or not (Schmalleger, Hall & Dolatowski, 2005). For instance, Dan and John may rob Antony. As the two run away, Antony might shoot to kill Dan. Applying the ‘felony murder rule,’ principle, John might be prosecuted for Dan’s murder even if he did not shoot him. The legal argument is that they jointly committed a felony act that was substantially dangerous to human life. In this extent, it is satisfactory fair to hold the co-conspirator responsible for a murder committed by partner since the two participated in creating a situation that was substantially harmful to other people’s lives.

Crimes against Property and Individuals

Felony may be committed against individual or even property. It may be presumed that crimes that threaten the lives of individuals need severe punishment due to the irreversibility and inability nature of life. However, many felonies that endanger the lives of individuals occur in the process of executing property crimes such as stealing and carjacking among others (Schmalleger, Hall & Dolatowski, 2005). Consequently, crimes against property may act as the proximate cause for transgressions against individuals. Thus, there should be a way of punishing all offenses in equal thresholds to avoid a higher probability of causing even more severe crimes.

Corporate Crimes

For crimes that are committed by corporations to the extent of leading to apparent manslaughter, a company assumes collective responsibility or strict liability (Parsons, 2003). In such situations, the crimes relate to decisions made by corporation managers. Corporations make decisions in the best interest of all its stakeholders. Hence, it becomes incredibly challenging to prove the intention of causing harm in a case that involves alleged transgression by corporations against its stakeholders (Forlin, 2005). Acts committed by individuals who intentionally or unintentionally threaten the lives other people may attract penalties including life sentence, a death penalty, or even a jail term. Similar crimes that are committed by corporations may only attract fines or even closure of a corporation due to the difficulty of attributing the cause of danger to specific persons in the corporation in situations where the corporation managers and leaders executed an act from the basis of a unanimous decision. Perhaps, this situation results in a segregated application of the law. However, punishment that is applicable to corporations is necessary to avoid gross negligence.

Reference List

Forlin, G. (2005). Corporate Manslaughter-Where are We Now? New Law Journal, 155(720), 71-86.

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Parsons, S. (2003). The Doctrine of Identification, Causation and Corporate Liability for Manslaughter. Journal of Criminal Law, 67(69), 88-97.

Schmalleger, F., Hall, D., & Dolatowski, J. (2005). Criminal Law Today. New York, NY: Person.

Shankland, R. (2010). Duress and the underlying felony. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 99(4), 1227-1258.

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