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  • Understanding Article 118, UCMJ – Murder

    Types of Murder

    Any person subject to the UCMJ who, without justification or excuse, unlawfully kills a human being is guilty of murder.  There are four ways murder can occur under the UCMJ:

    Premeditated Murder

    • That a certain named or described person is dead;
    • That the death resulted from the act or omission of the accused;
    • That the killing was unlawful; and
    • That, at the time of the killing, the accused had a premeditated design to kill.

    Intent to Kill or Inflict Great Bodily Harm

    • That a certain named or described person is dead;
    • That the death resulted from the act or omission of the accused;
    • That the killing was unlawful; and,
    • That, at the time of the killing, the accused had the intent to kill or inflict great bodily harm upon a person.

    Act Inherently Dangerous to Another

    • That a certain named or described person is dead;
    • That the death resulted from the intentional act of the accused;
    • That this act was inherently dangerous to another and showed a wanton disregard for human life; and,
    • That the accused knew that death or great bodily harm was a probable consequence of the act; and,
    • That the killing was unlawful.

    During Certain Offenses

    • That a certain named or described person is dead;
    • That the death resulted from the act or omission of the accused;
    • That the killing was unlawful; and,
    • That, at the time of killing, the accused was engaged in the perpetration or attempted perpetration of burglary, rape, rape of a child, sexual assault, sexual assault of a child, aggravated sexual contact, sexual abuse of a child, robbery, or aggravated arson.

    Murder Explained

    The difference between premeditated murder and unpremeditated murder comes down to intent.  Premeditation means that the thought of taking a life was “consciously conceived and the act or omission by which it was taken was intended.”  This requires that the person form a “specific intent to kill someone” and “consideration of the act intended.”  Premeditation does not necessarily mean that the murder was planned out long in advance—once a “fixed purpose to kill has been deliberately formed, it is immaterial how soon afterwards it is put into execution.”

    Defenses

    Rule for Court-Martial 916 provides defenses to murder.  These include justification (that the death caused was in the proper performance of a legal duty and is justified and not unlawful), obedience to orders, self-defense, accident, and lack of mental responsibility.

    Voluntary intoxication (either by drugs or alcohol) is not a defense but may be admitted to raise reasonable doubt about the existence of actual knowledge, specific intent, willfulness, or premeditation.  Voluntary intoxication may reduce premeditated murder to unpremeditated murder, but it will not reduce murder to manslaughter or any other lesser offenses.

    Maximum Punishment

    The maximum sentence for premeditated murder or murder committed during certain other offenses is death.  Both charges carry a mandatory minimum sentence of imprisonment for life with the eligibility for parole.  The maximum sentence for unpremeditated murder under Article 118(2) or (3) is such punishment other than death as a court-martial may direct.

    Protect Your Freedom and Your Military Future

    When your life, career, and future are on the line, you need an experienced law firm in your corner.  The skilled and assertive attorneys at Military Justice Attorneys will zealously fight for you.  We have defended servicemen and women facing investigations, trials, and discipline for the most serious offenses under the UCMJ and will ensure that every avenue of defense is aggressively pursued on your behalf.  Call us today at (844) 334-5459 for a free consultation.

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