Not all homicides are murder in Oklahoma. Not all homicides occur with intent. Second degree murder is treated seriously in Stillwater, Oklahoma.
Second Degree Murder in Oklahoma
Under Oklahoma law, murder can be of the first or second degree — with murder in the first degree as a more serious crime.
In Oklahoma, a homicide is deemed murder in the second degree when the killing is done by an act that is imminently dangerous to another person and when the killer shows a “depraved mind” and extreme disregard for human life, but does not have any premeditated design to kill another, or when the killing occurs during the commission of a felony other than those enumerated under the statute. Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 701.8
Like all crimes, in order to secure a conviction, the prosecution must prove every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. If the prosecution is unable to prove any one of the elements, there will be no conviction.
The elements of second-degree murder are:
- the death of a person
- caused by conduct which was imminently dangerous to another;
- the conduct belonged to the defendant;
- the conduct evinced a depraved mind in extreme disregard of human life; and
- the conduct is not done with the intention of taking the life of any particular individual.
“Depraved mind” can be shown when a person engages in imminently dangerous conduct with a reckless disregard for and total indifference to the life and safety of another person.
Imminently dangerous conduct is conduct which a reasonable person would consider to be immediate and have a very high degree of risk of death to another person.
Not all acts that end in death are imminently dangerous. For example, a person may be driving a car down a street within the posted speed limit. If a child darts out suddenly and is hit and killed by the driver, the mere act of driving would not be considered to be imminently dangerous.
However, grabbing a steering wheel of a car while someone else is driving and forcing the car into a crowd of people does carry a risk of immediate and grave danger to others.
Absence of Premeditation
Murder of the first degree requires a showing of an intent to murder or “malice aforethought.” Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 701.7
Second-degree murder does not require any showing of planning or intent for the death to occur. The death can occur without intent. If there is an intent to kill that person, that shows premeditation and pushes the crime into first-degree murder.
Felony Murder Rule
Second-degree murder can also include a death which occurs during the commission of a felony. Oklahoma Jury Instructions are helpful in interpreting the statute. The defendant is in the commission of an underlying felony when he or she is performing an act that is an inseparable part of the underlying felony which is necessary in order to complete the course of conduct which the underlying felony requires or when he or she is fleeing from the immediate scene of the underlying felony. OUJI-CR 4-93
Case law in Oklahoma has somewhat limited the application of the felony murder rule to underlying felonies which evince some potential for peril to others. Oklahoma courts have upheld this principle, stating that the underlying felony must be one that is inherently dangerous to others. (Wade v. State, 581 P.2d 914, 1978 OK CR 77
The statutory penalty for second-degree murder in Oklahoma is from 10 years to life in prison. Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 701.9
In addition, murder is one of the crimes enumerated in the 85% Rule in Oklahoma. Under this rule, if sentenced, you must serve at least 85% of the time to which you are sentenced. Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 13.1
Thus, if you are convicted of second-degree murder in Oklahoma, you must serve at least 8.5 years of a 10-year sentence.
Murder charges carry some of the stiffest penalties under Oklahoma law. If you are facing charges of second-degree murder, don’t go it alone. Hire an experienced Stillwater criminal law attorney.
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