In Brooklyn Park, a man was recently found guilty of the second-degree murder of his two-month-old son. The defendant admitted in court to hitting the child and admitted that his actions lead to the baby’s death.
So how is an outright admission of guilt in killing an infant not considered first-degree murder? Because Minnesota murder charges depend heavily upon intent.
How Does Minnesota Define Intent?
Most murder cases involve proving a specific intent to end a human life. Intent can be difficult to prove but there are a few strategic methods prosecutors use to do it.
Explicit Intent: Confessions and Admissions
When the accused speaks, writes, or communicates that they wanted to kill someone else, it’s a good way to prove that they intended to kill. Although it seems fairly straightforward, there are many rules surrounding what constitutes a valid confession or admission of guilt. Not to mention an entire amendment dedicated to protection from self-incrimination.
Implied Intent: Actions Speak Louder Than Words
The intent to kill can be implied from the actions someone takes. For example, if one person uses special hollow-point ammunition instead of, say, a BB to shoot another person, then chances are good the offender wasn’t just trying to injure the victim.
No Intent: Depraved Heart Murder
This is acting with extreme recklessness and understanding that the act is dangerous to human life. Say someone enters a crowd and shoots a gun, and a stray bullet winds up killing someone. Depraved heart murders involve a person acting in a way that shows extreme indifference to human life.
What Is Second-Degree Murder in Minnesota?
Second-degree murder is the less severe of the two types of murder in question. If the act of killing is carried out in a way that intended serious harm but not necessarily the death of an individual, then it’s considered second-degree murder.
These charges can sometimes be tricky for prosecutors to argue because it involves trying to understand a person’s internal intent. Knowing a defendant’s state of mind at the time the murder took place isn’t that easy. Did the offender really decide that moment to kill someone?
It’s also important to note that second-degree murder can also be charged in conjunction with another felony like rape, theft, or arson where the death of the victim might have resulted from the actions of the accused.
What Is First-Degree Murder in Minnesota?
A person is charged with first-degree murder when the killing was intentional and premeditated. The prosecution must prove that the act was deliberate, planned and that the accused was able to think through the result of their actions.
First-degree murder can also be charged if the death of a victim occurred during the commission of the following crimes:
- Attempted sexual assault or rape
- Attempted robbery or kidnapping
- Felony drug crime
- Drive-by shooting
- An act of child abuse
- After a pattern of domestic abuse or while abusing them
These charges may also be brought against an offender who kills someone while conspiring, attempting to commit or committing a felony in furtherance of terrorism, or as a result of intentionally murdering a judge, correctional or police officer, or a prosecutor while they were on duty.
Minnesota’s Penalties for Murder
In Minnesota, the charge of first-degree murder brings with it the penalty of life in prison. Second-degree murder can be punished by up to 40 years in prison.
Prosecutors know that in order to charge someone with a specific type of murder, they must prove intent. That’s why it’s such an integral part of the crime and, ultimately, the fate of the accused.
About the Author:
Christopher Keyser is an AV-Preeminent rated criminal and DWI defense attorney based in Minneapolis who is known for fighting aggressively for his clients and utilizing innovative tactics to get the most positive results. He has been featured in numerous media outlets due to the breadth and depth of his knowledge and named a Certified Specialist in Criminal Law by the Minnesota Bar Association. Mr. Keyers is Lead Counsel rated, and he has received recognition for his criminal law work from Avvo, Expertise, Super Lawyers, The National Trial Lawyers, and more.