Retired Judge Vickers Cunningham


What is Murder?

States have adopted several different systems for classifying murders by degree. The most common separates murder into two degrees (first- and second-degree murder) and treats voluntary and involuntary manslaughter as separate crimes that do not constitute murder.[13]

This link shows the Texas Penal Code for Criminal Homicide: Click Here

First-degree murder

Any intentional murder that is willful and premeditated with malice aforethought. Felony murder, a charge that may be filed against a defendant who is involved in a dangerous crime where a death results from the crime, is typically first-degree.

Second-degree murder

Any intentional murder with malice aforethought but is not premeditated or planned in advance.

Voluntary manslaughter

Sometimes called a crime of passion murder, is any intentional killing that involves no prior intent to kill and which was committed under such circumstances that would “cause a reasonable person to become emotionally or mentally disturbed”. Both this and second-degree murder are committed on the spot under a spur-of-the-moment choice, but the two differ in the magnitude of the circumstances surrounding the crime. For example, a bar fight that results in death would ordinarily constitute second-degree murder. If that same bar fight stemmed from a discovery of infidelity, however, it may be voluntary manslaughter. [16]

Involuntary manslaughter

A killing that stems from a lack of intention to cause death but involving an intentional or negligent act leading to death. A drunk driving-related death is typically involuntary manslaughter (see also vehicular homicide, causing death by dangerous driving, gross negligence manslaughter, and causing death by criminal negligence for international equivalents). Note that the “unintentional” element here refers to the lack of intent to bring about the death. All three crimes above feature an intent to kill, whereas involuntary manslaughter is “unintentional”, because the killer did not intend for a death to result from their intentional actions. If there is a presence of intention, it relates only to the intent to cause a violent act, which brings about the death, but not an intention to bring about the death itself.

The Model Penal Code classifies homicides differently, without degrees. Under it, murder is any killing committed purposely and knowingly, manslaughter is any killing committed as a result of recklessness, and negligent homicide is any killing resulting from negligence.

Some states classify murders differently. In Pennsylvania, first-degree murder encompasses premeditated murders, second-degree murder encompasses accomplice liability, and third-degree serves as a catch-all for other murders. In Texas, first-degree murder involves “special circumstances”, such as the murder of a police officer or witness to a crime, multiple murders, or murders involving torture. [19] Under this system, second-degree murder is any other premeditated murder.[20]

In the United States, the law for murder varies by jurisdiction. In most US jurisdictions, there is a hierarchy of acts, known collectively as homicide, of which first-degree murder and felony murder are the most serious, followed by second-degree murder, followed by voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter, which are not as serious and ending finally in justifiable homicide, which is not a crime. However, because there are at least 52 relevant jurisdictions, each with its own criminal code, this is a considerable simplification.

Sentencing also varies widely depending upon the specific murder charge. “Life imprisonment” is a common penalty for first-degree murder, but its meaning varies widely.

Capital punishment is a legal sentence in 28 states and in the federal civilian and military legal systems. The United States is unusual in actually performing executions, with 34 states having performed executions since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976. The methods of execution have varied, but the most common method since 1976 has been a lethal injection. In 2019 a total of 22 people was executed, and 2,652 people were on death row.

Retired Judge Vic Cunningham is overqualified with his track record being on the bench for 27 years, Vic Cunningham became involved in the cases after receiving a promotion. In October, Cunningham was tapped by Gov. Rick Perry to fill a seat in the 283rd district court, left vacant by Molly Francis, who was appointed by Perry to the court of appeals.

Retired Judge Vic Cunningham understands the complicity of the law, call for a consultation at 972-243-8688 

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