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The World Law Dictionary Project

English may be the common language of the world, but the Common Law is not the common law of the world

That’s why, in a unique project, TransLegal has teamed up with leading law schools from around the world to create an online multilingual law dictionary linking the world’s legal languages to a single English law dictionary.

e.g. principle, consideration, jurisdiction
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murder noun

the crime of killing someone illegally and deliberately
He was charged with the murder of a 24-year-old man who was beaten to death in east London.

Hi, I'm Robin, welcome to TransLegal's lesson of the week. Today I'm going to try to kill the confusion between the similar words homicide, murder and manslaughter.

We'll start with homicide which as you see is the umbrella term for these other kinds of killings. Homicide only means killing. It describes various different killings, whether they are illegal or not.

You're probably familiar with some of the words that end in cide, like suicide killing yourself, patricide killing your father like the mythical Oedipus did, and infanticide which means killing small infants. Often homicide is committed in a completely legal way, for instance the State of Texas which has a death penalty. When they carry out this death penalty it is a homicide although it is completely in accordance with the law.

So let's start with the first crime here which is murder. Murder is always intentional and the kind of intention which is required by the law is called malice aforethought in legalese. It is the most serious of all of the killing crimes and there are several levels of murder. First there is murder in the first degree and that is committed when you kill a police officer or you commit the killing in an extremely cruel way where there's a lot of torture involved. Murder in the first degree can be punished by the death penalty in the states where they have that, otherwise by long, long prison sentences. Then we have murder in the second degree and that's just sort of the normal degree of killing. When you've just killed somebody but not in a terribly terrible way. And that has a lighter punishment. Usually you don't receive the death penalty for that and you don't have to spend your entire life in prison.

Then we come to manslaughter which is a lesser killing crime. To commit manslaughter you usually need an intent but not an intent to kill. So for instance, you can just intend to cause somebody physical harm. Let's say you stab them intending just to hurt them but they happen to die. You will be convicted of manslaughter. Similarly, if you have a reckless state of mind. For instance, you have a gun, you shoot it into a crowd, not really aiming at anybody, but the bullet hits somebody and that person happens to die. You can be convicted of manslaughter for that reckless act. There are also several fairly new kinds of crimes that are considered to be manslaughter, for instance vehicular manslaughter which occurs when you drive drunk and hit somebody and that person dies. You'd never had the intent to kill or to hurt anybody, but that just happened. You can be convicted of vehicular manslaughter. Similarly, assisted suicide when you are helping somebody to kill themselves. That is sometimes punished as manslaughter.

So, anyway, I hope that I've managed to kill some of the confusion and that you're not completely dead after listening to this. So if you have any questions please feel free to put them in the comments section. We'd love to have your feedback. We'll get back to you as soon as possible. Thanks.

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