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Massachusetts Second-Degree Murder Law

When a person kills someone, regardless of intent or other details surrounding the incident, it's generally called a homicide. Specifically, murder is when a person knowingly and purposefully kills another person or causes substantial bodily harm that the person later dies due to the injuries that were inflicted.

Second-Degree Murder in Massachusetts

In the Commonwealth, a person commits second-degree murder when he or she intentionally kills another person, but does so without any premeditation. The killing must be done with with malice aforethought.

These sorts of killings occur in the heat of the moment, but do not involve any premeditation on the part of the perpetrator. At the moment the murder occurs, the killer definitely intends to kill the victim, but up to that moment, the killer had no intent or plan to commit murder.

Example of Second-Degree Murder

Let's say Betty goes to visit her husband Don at the Madison Avenue office one day and finds him sleeping with his secretary, Megan. If Betty kills Megan in the heat of passion, that's second-degree murder. Why? Betty didn't have any plan to kill Megan when she went to Don's office that day, so there was no premeditation. At the time of the murder, however, Betty fully intended to kill Megan because of her anger over the affair, so there was malice aforethought.

Felony Murder

Second degree murder is also when a person commits a felony and a death occurs. This is often referred to as "felony murder." For a charge of felony murder, the prosecutor doesn't need to prove that the killing was intentional, but merely a consequence of committing some other felony. For example, if a person steals a car and runs a pedestrian over in the process, that's felony murder.

The following table highlights the main provisions of Massachusetts second-degree and felony murder laws. See also, Second Degree Murder Defenses, Second Degree Murder Penalties and Sentences, Voluntary Manslaughter, and Involuntary Manslaughter.

Code Sections

Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 265, Section 1

What is Prohibited

(1) An unlawful killing that was committed

(2) With malice aforethought but without deliberate premeditation.

Felony Murder

A homicide (killing of a human) that takes place in conjunction with a certain felony crimes not punishable by death or life in prison, such as robbery, burglary, etc.

Malice Aforethought Malice aforethought can include any intent to inflict a serious bodily injury or death upon another person.

Maximum of life imprisonment with the possibility of parole after a minimum of 15 years.

Civil Case

Possible Wrongful Death lawsuit.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Massachusetts Second-Degree Murder Laws: Related Resources

Get Legal Help for Second-Degree Murder Charges

Although second-degree murder is a lesser charge than murder in the first degree, it's still a very serious crime. Anytime you're facing murder charges, you're at risk for spending time behind bars. Because incarceration is a possibility, you should act in your own interests and immediately contact an experienced criminal defense attorney for assistance.

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