Why murder is a crime.

Discussions that deal with moral issues. Key questions in ethics include: How should one live? What is right (or wrong) to do? What is the best way for humans to live?

Re: Why murder is a crime.

Postby vivian maxine on June 9th, 2016, 2:12 pm 

BadgerJelly » June 9th, 2016, 12:58 pm wrote:The older I get I often think it is a crime not to kill certain people! Haha

May I quote you? Several weeks ago, I had occasion to go to an Urgent Care center. In registering, they asked all the usual health questions. Then came the last one: "Do you ever feel like you'd like to injure somebody?"

I looked at her strangely. She said they are now required to ask that. Guess how I answered her. :-)
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Re: Why murder is a crime.

Postby TheVat on June 9th, 2016, 7:11 pm 

"Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law." - most popular formulation of Kant's categorical imperative.

That would have blown her mind, eh?
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Re: Why murder is a crime.

Postby Dave_Oblad on June 9th, 2016, 7:27 pm 

Hi Biv..lol.

Biv wrote: "Do you ever feel like you'd like to injure somebody?"

Only when the doctor starts thumping my injury asking how much each thump hurts...

Best to ya,
Dave :^)
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Re: Why murder is a crime.

Postby Neri on July 2nd, 2016, 12:50 pm 

Murder should not be conflated with killing in general. The latter, in the law, is called homicide.

All homicides are not criminal. Some are excusable or justifiable. Others are wrongful in the sense that they are compensable by money damages.

A killing is justified if the actor has the right to kill. For example, if one has a reasonable belief that he is in immediate danger of death or serious bodily injury as a result of a malicious assault, he is justified in using deadly force against the assailant.

A killing is excusable if it is accidental without malice or recklessness on the part of the killer. For example, if one is driving a car with a mechanical defect unknown to him that causes the car to strike and kill a pedestrian—the death is excusable. [It is not said to be “justifiable,” because the deceased is an innocent victim and not a malicious assailant.]

In order for a homicide to be criminal, the killer must have a certain “mens rea” (guilty mind). He must have the specific intention to kill or cause serious bodily where there is no justification or excuse, or he must act with recklessness.

For a criminal homicide to be murder, the killing must be accompanied by malice. In the law, “malice” has a very particular meaning:

(1) A killing done with the specific intent to kill or cause serious bodily injury where there are no circumstances reducing the crime to voluntary manslaughter.

(2) A killing done in the course of committing a violent felony such as robbery or rape--even where the killing is not intentional.

(3) A killing done with hardness of heart, cruelty and a mind regardless of social duty.

There are degrees of murder, the definition of which varies somewhat from state to state (U.S. law).

Generally, a murder done with the specific intent to kill by poison, lying in wait or by any other means is called Murder of the First Degree and requires a sentence of life imprisonment.

In some states, the sentence of death may be imposed if certain aggravating circumstances are present that are not outweighed by mitigating circumstances. A jury usually determines these circumstances, but in all cases a separate sentencing hearing is required. An execution done in pursuance of a lawful sentence of death is a justified killing as a matter of law.

A murder of the first degree requires premeditation. This does NOT mean that extensive planning is required. It means only that there must be sufficient time for the killer to fully form the specific intent to kill. The law sets no particular time to form such intent but allows the jury to determine if there has been sufficient premeditation on a case-to-case basis.

A killing done with the intention to cause serious bodily injury but not death is usually a lesser degree of murder (depending on the state).

An intentional killing without malice is called Voluntary Manslaughter. This includes cases where the death results from serious provocation by the victim. However, an actor is guilty of murder if he kills a victim who seriously provoked him but there has been sufficient time to cool and act deliberately.

Voluntary manslaughter also includes a killing where the actor has a real belief that the victim has placed him in immediate danger of death or serious bodily injury but that belief is unreasonable.

A killing is Involuntary Manslaughter if it is done recklessly. The law makes a distinction between recklessness and negligence. The latter is the basis for a civil suit for money damages. The former constitutes the crime of involuntary manslaughter.

Negligence involves a duty to exercise ordinary care. Recklessness involves the intentional disregard of the danger of death or serious bodily injury. To put it differently, it is a gross departure from the standard of care that a reasonable man would exercise in the circumstances. [It is sometimes called gross negligence].

Therefore, it should be clear that in the law all killings are not murder. Indeed, in some cases a killing is not a crime at all. Further, the law very carefully delineates the degree of culpability where the killing is a crime and apportions the punishment accordingly. This not only preserves the social order but also furthers the interests of justice.
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Re: Why murder is a crime.

Postby Neri on July 4th, 2016, 8:14 pm 

Having roughly set out the meaning of murder under U.S. law, it is incumbent upon me to answer the question: “Why is murder a crime?” The obvious answer is, “because it is set out as such in the law.” However, it appears that the comments on this topic really seek an answer to the question, “What is the moral basis for the crime of murder?”

I think it is safe to say that in legal scholarship the moral basis for all crimes is given as the Kantian Imperative which holds: “Act only according that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law.”

Thus, the legal intellectuals are principally concerned with the question: “What will be the general effect on all society if a certain kind of conduct is permitted?” That question is easily answered in the case of murder. It would result in social upheaval where violence and disorder are the only rule and where everyone would be in grave danger of a violent death.

The general public sees the matter somewhat differently. To them, the moral basis for all crimes is contained in the maxim: “Treat others as you would wish to be treated yourself.” This so-called Golden Rule seems to be built into the minds of all humans. Indeed, it is found, in one form or another” in virtually every human society. Thus, the ordinary citizen would say: “Just as the murderer would not wish to be maliciously killed, it is wrong for him to maliciously kill another.” [Remember that “malice” has a specific meaning in the law.]

There are certain technical problems associated with the Golden Rule [which I will not elaborate here] that have caused legal scholars to favor the categorical imperative of Kant.

The more serious problem with the Golden Rule lies in the fact that, in the human psyche, it seems only to apply intrasocially. Like other higher primates, the human has the sense of “us and them.” The Golden Rule does not appear to apply to “them”—the outsiders, the enemy. Thus, there is a lack of the moral intuition in war.

There has been an attempt, principally by the Marxists, to treat the question of morality internationally, but this has been an utter failure. The human has an innate disposition to favor his own national identity—or even his own tribal and cultural identity. This, unfortunately, is a fact of the human condition.
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Re: Why murder is a crime.

Postby phildoggymaster on August 3rd, 2016, 6:02 pm 

The question is just not specific enough for a specific answer. Subjectively speaking, if someone killed my family, I would do anything to see him or her put to death. Now who would be committing the crime? Are my actions justified? Hard to say right? It's all so simple like this, but what if we were to add a twist. If I was his boss and had fired him for whatever reason which causes him to be unable to provide for his family, that his family is on the verge of starving to death, (just being theoretical here), he kills my family out of rage and desperation, and then I put him and his family on trial and they are put to death.

I remember watching the movie batman begins, remember hearing this quote: "the first time I stole, yes, I lost many of the simple natures of right and wrong. The simple answer I want to give is that, people kill out of desperation, and the capital punishment? IT won't be right everytime, it's an imperfect if not broken system. I like Vivian Maxine said, you have to define murder more specifically. If the question was why is the sky blue, there would be many great and irrelevant answers, but if you framed your question and structured it with specifics, narrow it down perhaps, you would get the answer you seek.

To some, killing is wrong no matter what. Some would say killing a person who wronged another is ok. To end, I kind of like what Hitler said in that movie Hitler: Rise of Evil, "If a thief stole your wallet, and you steal it back, does that also make you a thief." I think the morals of that quote can be summarized as it's not just merely the action that defines itself, it's why and how the action was carried out. Killing in light of justice may not be a crime, however it is also situation dependent, killing in cold blood may be another story. The fact the question had used murder not killing already sheds a negative tone on the question, killing would have been more neutral.

Re: Why murder is a crime.

Postby Neri on August 3rd, 2016, 10:43 pm 


If someone intentionally killed your entire family and there is sufficient evidence to establish his guilt, the district attorney would have a solemn duty to prosecute the killer for first-degree murder. Because a multiple killing is involved, the DA could give notice of intent to seek the death penalty but is not compelled to do so. The question of capital punishment would only arise if there were a conviction of first-degree murder.

If there were such a conviction, the DA would have the aggravating circumstance of multiple murders. The defendant could present almost any sort of mitigating circumstance including his problems with rage and desperation--although, it is difficult to see in such a case what possible nexus there could be between those problems and multiple murders.

The defendant would be guilty of first-degree murder even if the killings were done “in rage and desperation,” as you put it. The crime could be reduced to voluntary manslaughter only if there were where serious provocations by all of the victims. The provocations would have to be so serious that the killer was thrown into an uncontrollable rage and acted in the heat of the moment. A general kind of rage of the sort you describe would not in any way reduce the crime to voluntary manslaughter.

If you took the law into your own hands and intentionally killed the person who murdered your family, the district attorney would likewise have a duty to prosecute you for first-degree murder. If you were convicted of that crime, you would be sentenced to life in prison. You would not be a candidate for capital punishment, because there are no aggravating circumstances in your case.
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