As he was leaving Vicky pushed him hard towards the bedroom door; Adam turned around and pushed Vicky back his push knocked her to the floor. When she fell, she hit her head on the desk and went unconscious. Adam laughed when he saw Vicky on the floor and told her to stop playing games and get up. When she didn’t move, he realized that she had died. Homicide is defined as “the killing of one human being by the act or omission of another (Nolo. com, 2007)”. In legal terms, however, homicide is just used as the general term for killing a person.
Most jurisdictions provide for different degrees of homicide depending on the circumstances attendant or the motive of the offender. Title 13 of the Arizona Revised Statutes provides for 4 classifications of homicide. These are negligent homicide (13-1102, ARS), manslaughter (13-1103, ARS), second degree murder (13-1104, ARS), and first degree murder (13-1105, ARS). NEGLIGENT HOMICIDE Section 1102 par A of Arizona Revised Statutes provides that “a person commits negligent homicide if with criminal negligence the person causes the death of another person, including an unborn child”.
Negligent homicide, also known as involuntary manslaughter in common law, occurs when there is absolutely no intention to kill or cause injury. In cases like this, the death that arises from the act of the offender is due to criminal negligence or recklessness. Negligence is present whenever an individual does not exercise the proper care and caution that a reasonable man similarly situated would exercise. The exercise of care and caution required from a reasonable man is that standard of society which it wishes to impose among all citizens.
Violation of such standard would lead to civil liability as a result of the damages caused by the negligent behavior. Criminal negligence, on the other hand, is a higher degree of carelessness which would lead to a negligent homicide whenever death results from the negligent act (People vs. Beardsley). MANSLAUGHTER Section 1103 par A of Arizona Revised Statutes provides that “A person commits manslaughter by:
1. Recklessly causing the death of another person; or 2. Committing second degree murder as defined in section 13-1104, subsection A upon a sudden quarrel or heat of passion resulting from adequate provocation by the victim; or 3. Intentionally aiding another to commit suicide; or 4. Committing second degree murder as defined in section 13-1104, subsection A, paragraph 3, while being coerced to do so by the use or threatened immediate use of unlawful deadly physical force upon such person or a third person which a reasonable person in his situation would have been unable to resist; or 5. Knowingly or recklessly causing the death of an unborn child by any physical injury to the mother. ” Recklessness is wanton disregard for the safety of others.
It is total disregard of the dangers presented by a particular situation he/she is faced with. In cases like this, there is no intent to kill. As such, it cannot be considered murder. However, due to the recklessness of the offender, he may be liable for manslaughter because even if there was no intent to kill, the fact that he was aware of the risk of injury to others and chose not to act with caution, and such act caused injury to another, he shall be faulted for the death or injury sustained by the offended party (Schmalleger, 2006).
In some states, recklessness is used interchangeably with criminal negligence. They both are elements of involuntary manslaughter. However, in other states such as California and Arizona, wanton disregard is treated as tantamount to willful or depraved indifference to human life which changes its treatment to something graver than involuntary manslaughter precisely because of its voluntary nature.
According to the Arizona Revised Statutes, another way to commit manslaughter is by committing second degree murder as defined in section 13-1104, subsection A upon a sudden quarrel or heat of passion resulting from adequate provocation by the victim. In effect, the presence of a sudden quarrel or heat of passion acts as a mitigating circumstance for second degree murder under paragraph A in section 13-1104 to be converted to manslaughter.
Sudden quarrel can be defined as “a cause that would commonly produce a degree of sudden anger, rage, or terror in a person of ordinary temper, sufficient to render the mind of the defendant incapable of objective reflection” (Schmalleger, 2006). In cases like this, the element of premeditation is negated by the fact that the defendant is put in a state of mind where he is overwhelmed with emotion that it renders him unable to think of the consequences of his action clearly. Furthermore, the fact that it was sudden clearly shows that no malice afterthought could have been employed in the commission of the act.
Heat of passion, on the other hand, is defined as a “passion directly caused by and rising out of provocation by the victim or of another, acting with the victim” (Schmalleger, 2006). It is the passion that arises at the precise time of or immediately preceding the killing and not one that arose from a previous encounter (Schmalleger, 2006). This is where the action of the defendant is triggered by overwhelming passion attained through the heat of the moment. A classic example of this is when a husband catches his wife having sexual intercourse with another man.