Second Degree Murder

The statutory definition of second degree murder, which can be found in Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 265 Section 1, is any murder that is not first degree murder. More specifically, second degree murder includes (1) an unlawful killing with malice aforethought but without deliberate premeditation and (2) a murder that was committed in the course of committing a felony not punishable by death or life in prison.

Breaking down the crime a bit further and defining some of these terms may help you to better understand the meaning of this charge.

  1. “An unlawful killing with malice aforethought but without deliberate premeditation.” The term “malice aforethought” is a legal term of art, and its meaning comes from the common law. In the context of second degree murder, malice aforethought can include any intent to inflict a serious bodily injury where there is no legal justification. A legal justification is something that turns conduct that would otherwise be criminal into non-criminal conduct. One example of a legal justification is self-defense. Malice aforethought doesn’t mean hatred or hostility towards the victim. It simply means that there was an intent to seriously hurt the victim without any justification that our law recognizes. “Deliberate premeditation” is another legal term of art. In this context, “deliberate” means purposeful and “premeditation” only refers to the time necessary to form an intent to kill. First degree murder requires a showing of deliberate premeditation whereas second degree murder does not.
  2. “A murder that was committed in the course of committing a felony not punishable by death or life in prison.” This type of second degree murder is known as second degree felony murder. To convict a defendant of this offense, the underlying felony has to be one that is inherently dangerous or that shows a conscious disregard for human life.

The degree of murder will be found by the jury. Obviously, murder is the most serious of crimes, and it calls for an equally serious defense. The criminal defense team at Altman & Altman, LLP has more than four decades of practice in dealing with homicide cases. If you or a loved one are suspected with taking the life of another person, the stakes are as high as they possibly get.

Contact the defense attorneys of Altman & Altman online today for a free consultation or call us at 617.492.3000 to see how we can help you.

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