Thursday, May 14, 2009

What is "murder"?

Listening to the radio this morning the host was discussing that in Sweden "it's okay to have an abortion if you don't get the gender baby you desire." Aside from the abortion issue, this got me to thinking about "murder" in general. Think of every crime drama you have ever watched, or every news story that talks about someone having died. (BTW, when was the last time you saw a crime drama that didn't involve someone dying?) How many laws are there to cover how many different methods of dying? I think it can be simplified down to just five, with differing degrees of punishment.

  1. Premeditated Murder
    Cold blooded, plan it in advance, know what you are doing, go out and kill someone. No excuse for this! Timely trial, timely execution of sentence; make it as public as possible with a harsh enough sentence to be an example to all that they don't want to risk the same happening to them.
  2. Impulsive Murder
    Not planned in advance, but the result of a spur of the moment decision to kill the person. Definitely take this person off the street, for a long time. They are a danger to all if they cannot control themselves. They do not get out until they can convince a medical panel they have learned control, even if the time of the original sentence has passed.
  3. Unintentional Murder
    A person is dead as a result of negligence or a prior bad decision. You get mad and beat someone up and they die. You choose to drink or take drugs and then end up running your vehicle into someone killing them. In these types of situations the killer made a conscience decision that ended in a bad result, the punishment should be the same as for that of the Impulsive Murder.
    An example of negligence would be a parachutist who dies because the parachute was not packed correctly, even though the person who did the packing did so with full intent of doing it right. This could be a lesser punishment, or may not have any punishment at all.
  4. Accidental Death
    Get over it, accidents happen. No matter how careful someone is, sometimes events may occur that are beyond anyone's reasonable control.
  5. Natural Death
    All things die, it is a part of life.
  6. Justifiable Murder
    Why did I say five ways and then have six? It was not a mistake or typo, this sixth method is really a sub category of either #1 or #2. There are circumstances where killing someone is justifiable: a law enforcement officer in the line of duty, a soldier in war, execution after a fair trial, self defense etc.

Now for the nit picky, "but what about ..." situations:

  • Wrongful Death
    Who can forget the O.J. Simpson murder trial? Remember my statement about a "fair trial"? That applies to all. If a victim's family feels justice has not been served, that is what the civil courts are for. A wrongful death could actually come out of any one of #1-6, whether the "killer" was found guilty or not.
  • Assisted Suicide
    No question, this is really just a #1 or #2. Doing something that you know will result in a person's death, even if it is their own, is still murder. I would put suicide here as well, but how do you punish someone who is already dead. (Believe it or not, some cultures actually have laws that govern burial for exactly this reason.)
  • Abortion
    Normally a #1, but possibly a #2. In rare cases abortion may fit in Justifiable Murder, but I can't recall ever having heard of one of these situations actually happening.
  • "Pull the Plug"
    I'm sorry, if a body is being artificially supported to the point where it cannot survive without external assistance, and there is no reason to believe that will change, then it is time to let go. This fits into #5.

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