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Sunday, March 8, 2015

Murder She Wrote: Homicide Information for Writers

“We believe he attacked six women using the same M.O. He stalked them with love poems, which he’d rewritten in a threatening tone, broke into their homes, sliced their torso with a razor and poured either vinegar or salt on them. He killed them with blunt force to the head, then he disappeared. He has never left any usable clues. No one was able to describe him before.”
            “I’m his first mistake.” 

WEAKEST LYNX - Fiona Quinn

Why do you call the police investigator at your murder scene a "homicide detective"?

A HOMICIDE - takes place when one person kills another person. Not all homicides are murders. These words are not synonymous. There are justifiable/non-criminal homicides. These include:
  • Self-defense
  • The defense of others (Mom saves her kids etc.)
  • Officers use of deadly force in defense of self or others

MURDER - is the term used for unjustified homicide. It is a felony. A felony - is a serious crime that would imprison someone for over a year and could potentially lead to the death penalty.

Murder can then be broken down into smaller categories. These categories are based on the circumstance of the murder. Laws about required prison sentencing/punishments are ascribed to the different levels.

Capital Murder

  • Killing a police officer doing his duty
  • A prisoner killing a corrections officer (prison or jail)
  • Are premeditated, willful and deliberate. Someone thought then acted on that thought. Time of premeditation is not necessarily an issue be it a month planning session or a 3 second decision. "I saw the man who was making me a cuckold and decided I wasn't going to play that game anymore, so I pulled my gun."

  • Someone planned to kill someone
  • Killing a child under twelve during an abduction/attempted abduction.
  • Someone died during a rape/attempted rape/sodemy, 
  • Someone died in an armed robbery/attempted armed robbery
  • Someone hired someone else to commit to kill the person.
  • Killing people in a crime/crime spree
  • Killing someone during an illegal drug transaction for the purpose of continuing the transaction.
First-Degree - occur when a murder takes place during:
  • Abductions
  • Lying in wait
  • Holding someone against their will
  • Foreign object sexual penetration/forcible sodomy
  • Starving
  • Poisoning
  • Burglaries
Second- Degree Murder
  • Definition varies by state.
  • All murders are classified as 2nd degree until the prosecutors can prove an aggravating factor such as those listed above.
  • The result of "reckless indifference for human life."


There are two types of manslaughter:
  1. Voluntary Manslaughter - is when things get out of hand like in a fight when your character throws a wild punch and collapses the guy's windpipe.
  2. Involuntary Manslaughter - is when someone dies because of the character's reckless behavior like in a car accident when your character ran the red light during a road race.
The characteristics of manslaughter include:
  • Criminal homicide
  • There was no premeditation, malice, or deliberation
  • Happens because of someone's reckless behavior (ex. shooting celebratory gun shots) or careless behavior (ex. not putting up no smoking signs by the oxygen tanks.
I hope you found this helpful.

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  1. Great post. Lots of cool details for writers and readers alike. :-)

  2. How would "lying in wait" not also qualify as premeditated and qualify for capital murder?

  3. You can wait for someone to rob them, or rape them, or even confront them or many other reasons but you hadn't planned on killing them. Then the shit hit the fan and that person died as the result. Ex. She took her gun and waited for Jim-bob to come out of the bank with his paycheck in hand. He was, after all, 3 years late on his child support and Edna was going to get some of the money he owed her. Jim-bob doesn't give the money over; he just laughs. "You ain't got the guts, woman," he said. Edna's face turned purple. "I'll show you guts." Her finger pulled back on the trigger. Jim-bob released his hold on the money, face down on the macadam, dead.

    1. I initially thought you meant lying in wait specifically to murder someone. That makes a little more sense.