Murder of the first degree is determined as a homicide, accompanied by several specific circumstances. In simple terms, it can be defined as the premeditated, intentional killing of another human being. The mitigating factors that can cause a homicide to be elevated to the first degree are as follows:
- Causing the death of a human being intentionally through engagement in assault, kidnapping or disabling the proper enforcement of the law by assaulting police officers, prison employees, judges, or jury members
- Death as the result of committing sexually motivated violence toward the victim
- Any death caused by association with selling illegal substances, burglary or escaping from prison
- Being party to willful neglect of a child’s well-being which results in the death of the child
- Causing death that is in any way related to felonious conduct or terrorism
The Penalties for First Degree Murder
Minnesota eliminated capital punishment in 1911, so while first degree murder is one of the most serious and life altering charges within the law, it does not carry the death penalty in this state. It does, however, carry the heavy sentence of mandatory life imprisonment. There may still be the potential for parole at a later date, depending on the discretion of the judge. This decision is usually influenced by the circumstances of the crime.
Such a serious charge necessitates the most experienced legal representation available. Effective defenses will vary, depending on the nature of the crime committed. One tactic is a “complete” defense, which is dependent on the jury and judge being convinced that the defendant is completely guilt, at which point he or she will enter a plea of innocence, insanity or self-defense. The other strategy – referred to as an “incomplete” defense – relies on the defendant demonstrating that intoxication or overly enthusiastic self defense led to the killing of an individual. If this is the case, they charge of first degree murder can sometimes be reduce to second or third degree, or even manslaughter.