Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Crime in the United States. Murder

In the United States, the principle of dual sovereignty applies to homicide as to other crimes. If murder is committed within the borders of a state, that state has jurisdiction. Similarly, if the crime is committed in the District of Columbia, the D.C Superior Court retains jurisdiction, though in some cases involving U.S. government property or personnel, the federal courts may have exclusive jurisdiction.

If the victim is a federal official, an ambassador, consul or other foreign official under the protection of the United States, or if the crime took place on federal property or involved crossing state lines, or in a manner that substantially affects interstate commerce or national security, then the federal government also has jurisdiction. If a crime is not committed within any state, then Federal jurisdiction is exclusive: examples include naval or U.S.-flagged merchant vessels in international waters and U.S. military bases worldwide. In addition, murder by a member of the United States military anywhere in the world is a violation of Article 118 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and can result in a servicemember suspected of murder being tried by a general court-martial. In cases where a murder involves both state and federal jurisdiction, the offender can be tried and punished separately for each crime without raising issues of double jeopardy, unless the court believes that the new prosecution is merely a "sham" forwarded by the prior prosecutor. In the United States there is no statute of limitations on the crime of murder.



Modern codifications tend to create a genus of offenses, known collectively as homicide, of which murder is the most serious species, followed by manslaughter which is less serious, and ending finally in justifiable homicide, which is not a crime at all. Because there are 53 jurisdictions, each with its own criminal code, this section treats only the crime of murder, and does not deal with state-by-state specifics.

At base, murder consists of an intentional unlawful act with a design to kill and fatal consequences. Generally, an intention to cause great bodily harm is considered indistinguishable from an intention to kill, as is an act so inherently dangerous that any reasonable person would realize the likelihood of fatality. Thus, if the defendant hurled the victim from a bridge, it is no defense to argue that harm was not contemplated, or that the defendant hoped only to break bones.

Under U.S. federal law, murder is the unlawful killing of a human being with malice aforethought. Malice can be expressed (intent to kill) or implied. Implied malice is proven by acts that involve reckless indifference to human life or in a death that occurs during the commission of certain felonies (the felony murder rule). The exact terms of the felony murder vary tremendously from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Life sentencing for murder in the United States has a mean of 349 months (29 years one month) and a median of 480 months (40 years).

However, some states' sentencings contemplate a full life's confinement, whence the sentence of confinement is not deemed fulfilled while the convicted person lives; and the only way to fulfill the sentence (and thereby obtain release from confinement) is by the individual's death. These sentences are termed natural life and/or life without the possibility of parole. Additionally, life without the possibility of parole can be defined under special circumstances for example in the course of a robbery or additional crimes.

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