Capital Murder

CAPITAL MURDER OR MURDER DEFENSE ATTORNEY
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Of all the crimes covered in any criminal code, those that deal with criminal homicide are the most serious in terms of punishments involved. If you or someone you love is facing such a charge, it could literally be a life-of-death situation if the most serious charge has been filed. As stressful and terrifying as this situation can be for anyone, fighting back with every legal option at your disposal has never been more important.

Our lawyers practice in state and federal courts throughout the country, as well as courts material worldwide. Using Texas law as an example, below you will find information regarding the types of criminal homicide charges available to prosecutors in Texas, the laws that define them, analysis of the statutory language, the penalties involved with each charge, and finally how you should proceed if you find yourself facing the possibility of prosecution for a criminal homicide charge. These laws are similar in all jurisdictions.

In the most general terms, there are four different types of criminal homicide that exist within the Texas statutes, in decreasing order of severity:
• Capital murder
• Murder
• Manslaughter
• Criminally negligent homicide

The most commonly charged methods of committing capital murder are as follows:

A person commits capital murder if he or she intentionally or knowingly:
1. Murders a peace officer or fireman who is acting in the lawful discharge of an official duty or who the person knows is a peace officer or fireman;
2. Commits murder in the course of committing or attempting to commit kidnapping, burglary, robbery, aggravated sexual assault, arson, obstruction or retaliation, or terroristic threat;
3. Commits a murder for hire;
4. Murders more than one person:
a. during the same criminal transaction; or
b. during different criminal transactions but the murders are committed pursuant to the same scheme or course of conduct; or
5. Murders an individual under six years of age.

There are other conditions that could result in a charge of capital murder, but the distinction between the statute and that of murder deals directly with the possible penalty allowable upon a conviction. A person convicted of capital murder can be punished by imprisonment for life without parole or by death.

A person commits murder if:
1. Intentionally or knowingly causes the death of a an individual
2. Intends to cause serious bodily injury and commits and act clearly dangerous to human life that causes the death of an individual; or
3. Commits or attempts to commit a felony, other than manslaughter, and in the course of and in furtherance of the commission or attempt, or in immediate flight from the commission or attempt, he commits or attempts to commit an act clearly dangerous to human life that causes the death of an individual.

As can be seen, in the first two instances, a person must have the intent to kill someone or the intent to inflict serious bodily injury. Subsection (3) deals with what is commonly known as the Felony Murder Doctrine, whereby a person is guilty of murder if he or she kills someone by committing an act clearly dangerous to human life even in he or she did not intend to kill or cause serious bodily injury.

A person convicted of murder is guilty of a first degree felony, which means that he or she could face prison term of 5-99 years, or life in prison.

An individual is guilty of manslaughter if he or she recklessly causes the death of another. A person acts recklessly, or is reckless, when he is aware of but consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the circumstances surrounding his conduct exist or the result will occur. The risk must be of such a nature and degree that is disregard constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that an ordinary person would exercise under all the circumstances as viewed from the actor’s standpoint.

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, if someone is acting recklessly, prosecutors do not need to prove that the person acted with any specific intent to kill someone. A conviction of manslaughter is a second degree felony. This means that a prison term between 2-20 years could be adjudged.

A person is guilty of criminally negligent homicide if he or she causes the death of an individual by criminal negligence. A person acts with criminal negligence, or is criminally negligent, when he ought to be aware of a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the circumstances surrounding his conduct exist or the result will occur. The risk must be of such a nature and degree that the failure to perceive it constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that an ordinary person would exercise under the circumstances as viewed from the actor’s standpoint. This offense is a state jail felony, which means that a term in a state jail of not less than 180 days but not more than 2 years could be adjudged.

If you or someone you love is facing this situation, you need to act now to preserve your rights and begin to prepare the best defense possible. Contact the criminal defense lawyers at Quackenbush Law Frim today to schedule a fee initial consultation at (806) 374-4024 .

 

PENAL CODE
TITLE 5. OFFENSES AGAINST THE PERSON
CHAPTER 19. CRIMINAL HOMICIDE

Sec. 19.01. TYPES OF CRIMINAL HOMICIDE.
(a) A person commits criminal homicide if he intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence causes the death of an individual.
(b) Criminal homicide is murder, capital murder, manslaughter, or criminally negligent homicide.

Acts 1973, 63rd Leg., p. 883, ch. 399, Sec. 1, eff. Jan. 1, 1974. Amended by Acts 1973, 63rd Leg., p. 1123, ch. 426, art. 2, Sec. 1, eff. Jan. 1, 1974; Acts 1993, 73rd Leg., ch. 900, Sec. 1.01, eff. Sept. 1, 1994.

Sec. 19.02. MURDER.
(a) In this section:
(1) “Adequate cause” means cause that would commonly produce a degree of anger, rage, resentment, or terror in a person of ordinary temper, sufficient to render the mind incapable of cool reflection.
(2) “Sudden passion” means passion directly caused by and arising out of provocation by the individual killed or another acting with the person killed which passion arises at the time of the offense and is not solely the result of former provocation.
(b) A person commits an offense if he:
(1) intentionally or knowingly causes the death of an individual;
(2) intends to cause serious bodily injury and commits an act clearly dangerous to human life that causes the death of an individual; or
(3) commits or attempts to commit a felony, other than manslaughter, and in the course of and in furtherance of the commission or attempt, or in immediate flight from the commission or attempt, he commits or attempts to commit an act clearly dangerous to human life that causes the death of an individual.
(c) Except as provided by Subsection (d), an offense under this section is a felony of the first degree.
(d) At the punishment stage of a trial, the defendant may raise the issue as to whether he caused the death under the immediate influence of sudden passion arising from an adequate cause. If the defendant proves the issue in the affirmative by a preponderance of the evidence, the offense is a felony of the second degree.

Acts 1973, 63rd Leg., p. 883, ch. 399, Sec. 1, eff. Jan. 1, 1974. Amended by Acts 1973, 63rd Leg., p. 1123, ch. 426, art. 2, Sec. 1, eff. Jan. 1, 1974; Acts 1993, 73rd Leg., ch. 900, Sec. 1.01, eff. Sept. 1, 1994.

Sec. 19.03. CAPITAL MURDER.
(a) A person commits an offense if the person commits murder as defined under Section 19.02(b)(1) and:
(1) the person murders a peace officer or fireman who is acting in the lawful discharge of an official duty and who the person knows is a peace officer or fireman;
(2) the person intentionally commits the murder in the course of committing or attempting to commit kidnapping, burglary, robbery, aggravated sexual assault, arson, obstruction or retaliation, or terroristic threat under Section 22.07(a)(1), (3), (4), (5), or (6);
(3) the person commits the murder for remuneration or the promise of remuneration or employs another to commit the murder for remuneration or the promise of remuneration;
(4) the person commits the murder while escaping or attempting to escape from a penal institution;
(5) the person, while incarcerated in a penal institution, murders another:
(A) who is employed in the operation of the penal institution; or
(B) with the intent to establish, maintain, or participate in a combination or in the profits of a combination;
(6) the person:
(A) while incarcerated for an offense under this section or Section 19.02, murders another; or
(B) while serving a sentence of life imprisonment or a term of 99 years for an offense under Section 20.04, 22.021, or 29.03, murders another;
(7) the person murders more than one person:
(A) during the same criminal transaction; or
(B) during different criminal transactions but the murders are committed pursuant to the same scheme or course of conduct;
(8) the person murders an individual under 10 years of age; or
(9) the person murders another person in retaliation for or on account of the service or status of the other person as a judge or justice of the supreme court, the court of criminal appeals, a court of appeals, a district court, a criminal district court, a constitutional county court, a statutory county court, a justice court, or a municipal court.
(b) An offense under this section is a capital felony.
(c) If the jury or, when authorized by law, the judge does not find beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty of an offense under this section, he may be convicted of murder or of any other lesser included offense.

Added by Acts 1973, 63rd Leg., p. 1123, ch. 426, art. 2, Sec. 1, eff. Jan. 1, 1974. Amended by Acts 1983, 68th Leg., p. 5317, ch. 977, Sec. 6, eff. Sept. 1, 1983; Acts 1985, 69th Leg., ch. 44, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1985; Acts 1991, 72nd Leg., ch. 652, Sec. 13, eff. Sept. 1, 1991; Acts 1993, 73rd Leg., ch. 715, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1993; Acts 1993, 73rd Leg., ch. 887, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1993; Acts 1993, 73rd Leg., ch. 900, Sec. 1.01, eff. Sept. 1, 1994; Acts 2003, 78th Leg., ch. 388, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 2003.
Amended by:
Acts 2005, 79th Leg., Ch. 428 (S.B. 1791), Sec. 1, eff. September 1, 2005.
Acts 2011, 82nd Leg., R.S., Ch. 1209 (S.B. 377), Sec. 1, eff. September 1, 2011.

Sec. 19.04. MANSLAUGHTER.
(a) A person commits an offense if he recklessly causes the death of an individual.
(b) An offense under this section is a felony of the second degree.

Acts 1973, 63rd Leg., p. 883, ch. 399, Sec. 1, eff. Jan. 1, 1974. Renumbered from Penal Code Sec. 19.04 by Acts 1973, 63rd Leg., p. 1123, ch. 426, art. 2, Sec. 1, eff. Jan. 1, 1974. Amended by Acts 1987, 70th Leg., ch. 307, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1987. Renumbered from Penal Code Sec. 19.05 and amended by Acts 1993, 73rd Leg., ch. 900, Sec. 1.01, eff. Sept. 1, 1994.

Sec. 19.05. CRIMINALLY NEGLIGENT HOMICIDE.
(a) A person commits an offense if he causes the death of an individual by criminal negligence.
(b) An offense under this section is a state jail felony.

Acts 1973, 63rd Leg., p. 883, ch. 399, Sec. 1, eff. Jan. 1, 1974. Renumbered from Penal Code Sec. 19.06 by Acts 1973, 63rd Leg., p. 1123, ch. 426, art. 2, Sec. 1, eff. Jan. 1, 1974. Renumbered from Penal Code Sec. 19.07 and amended by Acts 1993, 73rd Leg., ch. 900, Sec. 1.01, eff. Sept. 1, 1994.

Sec. 19.06. APPLICABILITY TO CERTAIN CONDUCT.
This chapter does not apply to the death of an unborn child if the conduct charged is:
(1) conduct committed by the mother of the unborn child;
(2) a lawful medical procedure performed by a physician or other licensed health care provider with the requisite consent, if the death of the unborn child was the intended result of the procedure;
(3) a lawful medical procedure performed by a physician or other licensed health care provider with the requisite consent as part of an assisted reproduction as defined by Section 160.102, Family Code; or
(4) the dispensation of a drug in accordance with law or administration of a drug prescribed in accordance with law.

Added by Acts 2003, 78th Leg., ch. 822, Sec. 2.02, eff. Sept. 1, 2003.

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