It seems like right now half of the people in my office are obsessed with the Casey Anthony trial in Clearwater, Florida. The 24-hour news networks are buzzing as to whether the jury will find Casey guilty of murder or if they will declare her innocent.
I realized after a 20 minute conversation with one of my secretaries today that not everyone fully understands the difference between the degrees of murder and the types of manslaughter. Here is an explanation of how homicides are classified in Georgia:
Murder is defined in Georgia as "the unlawful killing with malice aforethought." "Malice aforethought" is the "deliberate intention to take another's life." Georgia is one of the few states that does not classify murder as 1st Degree [cold-blooded killings] and 2nd Degree [reckless disregard for human life]. In Georgia, any killing with malice or a killing without provocation is murder. The severity of the punishment will depend on the seriousness of the surrounding circumstances.
Georgia law also recognizes Felony Murder which occurs when a death occurs during the commission of an "inherently dangerous felony." In other words, if you decides to rob a bank with a gun, the gun goes off accidentally and kills the bank teller, then you will be guilty of felony murder - even if he had no intent to shoot anybody. Georgia is also one of the few states that allow a person to be charged with felony murder when an assault or battery escalates to the point where someone is killed.
Finally, Georgia has Voluntary Manslaughter and Involuntary Manslaughter. Voluntary Manslaughter is when a person kills another person intentionally, but "in the heat of passion." This most often applies when a person acted in self-defense, but overreacted to the threat and killed another person. The person acted with the intent to kill, but the self defense was "in the heat of passion" so the court will likely find the person guilty of Voluntary Manslaughter. It is important to note, however, that if the person has had any time to "cool off" before they go perform the killing, it becomes a murder.
Involuntary Manslaughter is when a person kills someone doing something legal in an illegal way. Most often, this applies when a person is killed by a DUI driver. The driver never intended to kill another person, but their illegal behavior was the cause. Involuntary Manslaughter is the least serious homicide charge in Georgia, but a person facing an Involuntary Manslaughter charge can still face years of jail time.
There you have it. Now you can impress your friends by explaining the different degrees of homicide while watching around the clock coverage of the Casey Anthony trial. When the verdict is read, you will be in the know!