Legal Dictionary

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First Degree Murder

First Degree Murder is the most serious type of homicide. In order to convict a defendant of First-Degree Murder the prosecutor must prove the killing was willful, deliberate and premeditated. A defendant acts willfully if he/she intended to kill. A defendant acts deliberately if he/she carefully weighed the considerations for and against (his/her) choice and, knowing the consequences, decided to kill. A defendant acts with premeditation if he/she decided to kill before committing the act that caused death. Premeditation is a period of reflection, weighing the consequences for and against the act of killing; the period of time may be short. First Degree Murder also includes any death (even an accidental one) that results from the commission or attempted commission of certain violent felonies such as rape, robbery, arson, kidnapping, or burglary (felony murder). The punishment for First-Degree Murder in California is death, life without parole or 25 years to life. See also Murder and Felony Murder