The New York Criminal Law Blog

New York Penal Laws: Murder vs. Manslaughter

Veronica Cirella of Long Island was charged in the death of her 8-year old daughter after Cirella allegedly withheld her daughter's allergy medication causing her daughter to suffer a fatal allergic reaction. Cirella faces manslaughter charges under New York Penal Laws, leading us to ask: what is murder vs. manslaughter?

According to the New York Post, 8-year old Julie Cirella was set to be a flower girl at a wedding over the weekend. But before the wedding, Veronica Cirella withheld the girl's allergy medication causing the girl to die from an allergic reaction. After her daughter's death, Cirella allegedly tried to kill herself by strangling herself on a cord. She failed.

Cirella has been charged with manslaughter and not murder in her daughter's death. You may be wondering why ...

In New York, someone is generally charged with one of four crimes in the killing of another:

  • Murder in the first degree. Intentional killings with aggravating circumstances, like the killing of a police officer or witness to a crime.
  • Murder in the second degree. Intentional killings without the aggravating circumstances.
  • Manslaughter in the first degree. Intentional killings where the killer experiences severe emotional distress or where the actor only had the intent to severely injure (and not kill).
  • Manslaughter in the second degree. Unintentional killings where the killer acted recklessly.

With the exception of first degree murder, it appears that prosecutors could have reasonably considered charging Veronica Cirella with any of the crimes. But when considering murder vs manslaughter, prosecutors probably found that Cirella lacked the mind-state for a murder charge -- given her suicide attempt. So under New York Penal Laws, Cirella was charged with the lesser crime of manslaughter.

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