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Oklahoma First-Degree Murder

Under Oklahoma's criminal code, there are four classifications of homicide: murder, manslaughter, excusable homicide, and justifiable homicide. Murder is then further subcategorized into first-degree and second-degree murder. This article provides a brief overview of Oklahoma's most serious form of homicide, first-degree murder.

First-Degree Murder

First-degree murder is one of the most serious crimes listed in Oklahoma's criminal code and may be punished by death. While each state defines murder slightly differently, first-degree murder is generally associated with malice aforethought. Basically this means that the homicide must have been done deliberately and with the unlawful intent to kill the victim. However, in Oklahoma a killing done without malice aforethought may also qualify as first-degree murder if the killing took place under certain specific circumstances. The following chart lists these circumstances and outlines Oklahoma's first-degree murder statute.

Code Section

Oklahoma Penal Code section 21-701.7 and 21-701.9: Murder in the First Degree

What's Prohibited?

Homicide is murder in the first degree in the following cases:

Murder with malice:

  • Unlawfully causing the death of another human with malice aforethought. Here, malice is the deliberate unlawful intention to take away the life of a human (and that intention must be manifested by external circumstances that can be proved).

Felony Murder:

  • Taking the life of a human during the commission (or attempted commission) of one of the following crimes: murder, shooting a firearm with the intent to kill, intentionally discharging a firearm into a building, forcible rape, robbery with a dangerous weapon, kidnapping, escape from lawful custody, first-degree burglary, first-degree arson, unlawful distribution of a controlled dangerous substance, or trafficking in illegal drugs.
  • An offender commits first-degree murder if he, or any other person kills a human as a result of the commission (or attempted commission) of the crimes listed above.

Killing a child via torture or the use of unreasonable force:

  • Killing a child by willfully or maliciously injuring, torturing, maiming, or using unreasonable force on a child.

Soliciting a killing:

  • Unlawfully and with malice soliciting another person(s) to cause the death of another in order to further the manufacturing, distribution, dispensing, possessing with intent to distribute, or trafficking of illegal drugs.

Killing a law enforcement officer:

  • Intentionally causing the death of a law enforcement officer, or correctional officer, while the officer is performing his official duties.


Punishable by death, imprisonment for life without parole, or by imprisonment for life.

Proof Needed for a Murder Conviction

Before a defendant can be convicted of first-degree murder in Oklahoma the prosecution must prove both that the victim died and that the killing was caused by the accused beyond a reasonable doubt. In other words, reasonable doubt about the guilt of the defendant must not remain after thoroughly considering the evidence.

Additional Resources

For case specific information regarding Oklahoma's first-degree murder law contact a local criminal defense attorney.

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