Criminal news in Texas seems to revolve around murder. Once a week we pick up the newspaper and someone has shot or stabbed somebody for something. Murder as an offense tends to be “complicated” legally because of the many defenses, beginning with the required mental states and running the gauntlet down to what Percy Foreman called “misdemeanor murder” — the jury lets the defendant go because the sumbitch that died “deserved it.” Texas also recognizes “sudden passion” where in the old days murder was reduced from a capital punishment or life-in-prison-potential to simple “involuntary manslaughter.” A husband was understandably out of his mind when he caught his wife in bed with the milkman, shot one or both of them, but shouldn’t be guilty of “murder.” “Sudden passion” still exists, but now as a punishment mitigation issue which reduces the punishment range for murder to the standard manslaughter level.
Texas Penal Code 19.02(b) defines murder in three ways: “A person commits an offense if he: (1) intentionally or knowingly causes the death of an individual; (2) intends to cause serious bodily injury and commits an act clearly dangerous to human life that causes the death of an individual; or (3) commits or attempts to commit a felony, other than manslaughter, and in the course of and in furtherance of the commission or attempt, or in immediate flight from the commission or attempt, he commits or attempts to commit an act clearly dangerous to human life that causes the death of an individual.” The first is the modern equivalent of the common law definition of murder as causing the death of a person with malice aforethought. Malice does not necessarily have to be so aforethought anymore, but you still have to intentionally or knowingly cause the death of an individual. Thus, even pointing a gun and shooting someone is not enough under this definition, if it wasn’t proved to have been done with the intent or knowledge that it would cause the individual’s death.
If you or someone you know is being investigated or prosecuted for a crime, call Board Certified Criminal Law Specialist Micah Belden at 903-744-4252.