In the United States, murder is the only state level crime that remains potentially eligible for the death penalty. Murder is also one of the only offenses for which bond may potentially be denied. If you have been accused of murder, or you believe you are a suspect in a murder investigation, it is crucial that you consult with an experienced Nebraska violent crime attorney right away to ensure that your rights are protected throughout the investigation and/or prosecution of the case. Because a murder investigation is usually an intense, and often high profile, investigation, a suspect cannot afford to make a mistake. You also cannot afford to be in the dark with regard to the charges against you. Only your Nebraska violent crimes attorney can explain your specific charges to you; however, it may help to learn more about what constitutes the offense of murder in Nebraska.
What Constitutes Murder in the First Degree?
The killing of another can be charged in more than one way in Nebraska. The most serious of those is murder in the first degree which is governed by Nebraska Revised Statute 28-303. Murder in the first degree is defined as follows:
“A person commits murder in the first degree if he or she kills another person (1) purposely and with deliberate and premeditated malice, or (2) in the perpetration of or attempt to perpetrate any sexual assault in the first degree, arson, robbery, kidnapping, hijacking of any public or private means of transportation, or burglary, or (3) by administering poison or causing the same to be done; or if by willful and corrupt perjury or subornation of the same he or she purposely procures the conviction and execution of any innocent person.”
Murder in the first degree can be charged as a Class I or IA felony. If charged as a Class I felony, the potential penalty is death. If charged as a Class IA felony, you face life imprisonment if convicted. The Nebraska legislature has determined that the death penalty “shall only be imposed in those instances when the aggravating circumstances existing in connection with the crime outweigh the mitigating circumstances, as set forth in sections 29-2520 to 29-2524.”
Aggravating and Mitigating Circumstances in a Death Penalty Determination
As mentioned, the death penalty can only be imposed in a first degree murder case if a determination has been made that there are aggravating circumstances that outweigh any mitigating circumstances in the case. The following are factors that the court may consider when reviewing the aggravating and mitigating circumstances in a potential death penalty case.
- Aggravating Circumstances
- The offender was previously convicted of another murder or a crime involving the use or threat of violence to the person, or has a substantial prior history of serious assaultive or terrorizing criminal activity;
- The murder was committed in an effort to conceal the commission of a crime, or to conceal the identity of the perpetrator of such crime;
- The murder was committed for hire, or for pecuniary gain, or the defendant hired another to commit the murder for the defendant;
- The murder was especially heinous, atrocious, cruel, or manifested exceptional depravity by ordinary standards of morality and intelligence;
- At the time the murder was committed, the offender also committed another murder;
- The offender knowingly created a great risk of death to at least several persons;
- The victim was a public servant having lawful custody of the offender or another in the lawful performance of his or her official duties and the offender knew or should have known that the victim was a public servant performing his or her official duties;
- The murder was committed knowingly to disrupt or hinder the lawful exercise of any governmental function or the enforcement of the laws;
- The victim was a law enforcement officer engaged in the lawful performance of his or her official duties as a law enforcement officer and the offender knew or reasonably should have known that the victim was a law enforcement officer.
- Mitigating Circumstances
- The offender has no significant history of prior criminal activity;
- The offender acted under unusual pressures or influences or under the domination of another person;
- The crime was committed while the offender was under the influence of extreme mental or emotional disturbance;
- The age of the defendant at the time of the crime;
- The offender was an accomplice in the crime committed by another person and his or her participation was relatively minor;
- The victim was a participant in the defendant’s conduct or consented to the act; or
- At the time of the crime, the capacity of the defendant to appreciate the wrongfulness of his or her conduct or to conform his or her conduct to the requirements of law was impaired as a result of mental illness, mental defect, or intoxication.
What Constitutes Murder in the Second Degree?
Murder in the second degree, in the State of Nebraska, is defined as follows:
“A person commits murder in the second degree if he causes the death of a person intentionally, but without premeditation.”
The difference, therefore, between first and second degree murder is the presence or absence of premeditation. Murder in the second degree is a Class IB felony in Nebraska, punishable by life in prison.
If you have been charged with murder in the State of Nebraska, it is imperative that you consult with an experienced Nebraska violent crimes attorney right away. In Nebraska contact Petersen Criminal Defense Law 24 hours a day at 402-509-8070 to discuss your case with an experienced criminal defense attorney.