RI & MA Homicide & Murder Defense Attorney

Murder and Manslaughter Defense Lawyer Massachusetts and Rhode Island

As a former prosecutor with the US Army JAG Corps and the US Attorney’s Office, Attorney Calcagni is well versed in the prosecution and defense of all types of criminal cases. This experience is invaluable in his ability to defend accused individuals on trial for felony crimes such as Murder and Manslaughter.

Contact Murder and Manslaughter Criminal Defense Lawyer John L. Calcagni today at (401) 351-5100 to schedule a FREE CONSULTATION.

Murder Charges in Massachusetts

Murder as defined by State and Federal laws varies according to the jurisdiction. Common law, or judicial law, determines that murder by definition is the unlawful taking of the life of another human being without provocation, justification, or excuse.
Murder has been categorized by the courts and lawmakers into groupings of degrees, charged according to the severity and malicious intent present in the accused at the time of the crime.

Four elements must be present for a crime to fit the definition of murder: intent to kill; intent to inflict grievous bodily harm; a reckless indifference to a high risk to human life that is unjustifiable; intent to commit a dangerous felony. These elements
are important because they imply that someone could simply have the intent to do someone else physical harm, and still be charged murder unless the act was provoked.

Contact Massachusetts Murder Criminal Defense Attorney John L. Calcagni today at (401) 351-5100 to schedule a FREE CONSULTATION.

Murder in the First Degree

First degree murder generally occurs through premeditation and a willful act, meaning the accused planned to kill the victim. A violent crime may also be elevated to the status of first degree murder under the felony murder rule, which states that a person
commits first degree murder whenever any death, even accidental, occurs during or as a result of the commission of a violent felony such as burglary, rape, robbery, arson or kidnapping. Currently as there is no death penalty in Massachusetts, the crime
of first degree murder carries a maximum sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole. Under most Federal jurisdictions however, the death sentence is still a possibility if convicted in a Federal Court.

In Massachusetts, there are categories of first degree murder further distinguishing one act from another. Under Massachusetts General Law Chapter 265 section 1, murder in the first degree is comprised of the unlawful killing of a human being accomplished
in one or more of the following modes:

  • With deliberately premeditated malice aforethought; or
  • With extreme atrocity or cruelty; or
  • In the commission or attempted commission of a felony punishable by death or imprisonment for life

The category of deliberately premeditated malice aforethought simply means that the perpetrator took the time to think through the act, reflect on their course of conduct, and knowingly, and maliciously, follow-through with the decision to kill.

The extreme atrocity or cruelty category is determined predominantly by the jury. The Judge will instruct the jury that in order to apply the first degree murder decision, the defendant had to display an indifference to the suffering of the victim, the
victim’s level of consciousness or suffering should be considered, the extent of the injuries, number of blows and manner and force in which they were delivered, the instrument used, and any disproportion between the force that was necessary to cause
death and what was actually used.

And finally the category of felony murder is when murder in the first degree has been committed while attempting to commit a crime that is punishable by death or life imprisonment. Any death that occurs while in the act of committing a felony qualifies
as murder in the first degree. The maximum sentence in most jurisdictions for first degree murder is life in prison without parole.

Contact MA Murder in the First Degree Defense Attorney John L. Calcagni today at (401) 351-5100 to schedule a FREE CONSULTATION.

Second Degree Murder

Second degree murder removes the quality of intent and premeditation. Instead under the laws governing this category of murder death must be the result of an assault in which the death of the victim was a distinct possibility, but was not intended.

According to MA General Law chapter 265 section 1, second degree murder is defined as the unlawful killing of a human being accomplished using one or both of the following modes:

  • With malice aforethought; or
  • In the commission or attempted commission of a felony that is punishable by other than death or imprisonment for life

In contrast to first degree murder, there does not need to be extreme atrocity or cruelty, or participation in a felony that is punishable by life in prison, however the condition of malice is still present, meaning that the defendant committed the killing
with an intention to inflict grievous bodily injury without justification, or that acted in a manner that would likely cause death or serious injury to another person. There does not need to be an intention to kill present.

Felony murder has the same guidelines that felony first degree murder applies, except that the underlying felony does not carry a penalty of death or life imprisonment. The maximum sentence for this degree of murder is life imprisonment with eligibility
for parole after fifteen years, and unlike a first degree murder trial, the defendant has the choice to waive a jury trial and submit to a bench trial; which is a trial where the Judge alone determines guilt or innocence.

Contact Murder in the Second Degree Criminal Defense Lawyer John L. Calcagni today at (401) 351-5100 to schedule a FREE CONSULTATION.

Voluntary Manslaughter

Voluntary manslaughter, another form of murder, lacks the characteristics of malice that distinguishes it from murder, and usually occurs from sudden fighting or reasonable provocation. There is no definition under statutory law, as voluntary manslaughter
is determined by common law, or the courts.

Accordingly, the courts have determined that the unlawful killing of another, intentionally caused from a sudden transport of passion or heat of blood upon a reasonable provocation and without malice or upon sudden combat; or from the excessive use of
force in self-defense will constitute voluntary manslaughter.

This category is another form of intentional homicide, however there is no malice and the killing is a result of reasonable provocation occurring out the heat of passion or intense emotion like anger, fear or nervous excitement to such a degree that common
sense, restraint or the capacity for reflection are no longer available to the perpetrator. This must occur within a time period during which a reasonable person would not have had time to cool off.

With regard to the determination of what constitutes adequate provocation, the standard applied includes whether a reasonable person would have been provoked under the same circumstances. Words are not sufficient, under any circumstances, no matter what
is said or how provoking it may be, intoxication by the defendant is not grounds, neither is the suspicion of an adulterous spouse, though the observance of a spouse in the act, or hearing the act in progress may constitute legally acceptable provocation.

The only other instance where voluntary manslaughter may be determined occurs in cases where there is sudden combat that is not deliberate, and where someone has applied deadly force in self defense. The maximum sentence for this crime is twenty years
imprisonment, except in situations where explosives or infernal machines were used, in such cases the penalty is life in prison.

If you need a Murder and Manslaughter Defense Lawyer, give Attorney John L Calcagni III a call today at (401) 351-5100!