The New York Criminal Law Blog

Murder and Manslaughter in New York

Murder and manslaughter are crimes committed when one person takes the life of another, but the two are otherwise very different. Murder that is both willful and planned in advance is the most serious form of homicide and is referred to as first-degree murder. Second-degree murder is intentional but not premeditated, or is a homicide caused by dangerous acts in the absence of concern for others. While voluntary manslaughter is an intentional but unplanned killing commonly done “in the heat of passion,” involuntary manslaughter is an unintentional homicide resulting from an unlawful act such as a DWI.

Homicide is considered the most serious spectrum of crimes, with first-degree murder being the most severe; best defended by a New York criminal defense attorney or at least a public defender. Manslaughter convictions come with either probation or some prison time, while first-degree murder carries a sentence of 25 years to life in prison.

Recently in Murder & Manslaughter Category

How Are Mob Bosses Charged?

The recent arrest of five alleged mobsters said to have inspired the movie "Goodfellas" has given some insight into how mob bosses are charged with crimes.

Five reported members of the Bonanno crime family were arrested and charged with racketeering, murder, and the 1978 Lufthansa storage facility heist at John F. Kennedy International Airport, Reuters reported. The Lufthansa heist inspired the film "Goodfellas" and involved the theft of more than $5 million in cash and jewelry.

While it's a difficult and lengthy process to arrest and charge known mob families, the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, better known as the RICO Act, helps prosecutors charge the mobsters.

When Hit-and-Run Leads to Manslaughter

Hit-and-run accidents can lead to severe consequences. Last week, we talked about the possible repercussions of a hit-and-run crash, such as the criminal charge of fleeing the scene of the accident.

That's only one part of a case involving a death by vehicle. If you're caught fleeing the scene of an accident that left anyone dead, you're likely to face a homicide charge.

That's the fate of Julio Acevedo of Brooklyn. He was extradited from Pennsylvania to New York in the hit-and-run death of an expectant couple and their baby, who was born after the accident but later died.

Hit-and-Run in N.Y.: Crime or Infraction? It Depends

It's been all over the news in New York: A pregnant woman and her husband were killed en route to a hospital to deliver their baby. The baby was then prematurely delivered by Cesarean section but died the next day, CBS News reports.

The alleged culprit: A hit-and-run driver.

Julio Acevedo, 44, was arrested after he surrendered to officers in Pennsylvania. His alleged crime? Leaving the scene of an accident.

You Can't Kill to Speed Up Your Inheritance or You'll Lose It!

You’ve heard of black widows. Not the spider — the human.

These are people who kill their spouse to collect insurance money or some other sort of financial benefit.

But in New York, there’s something called the slayer statute. It’s a law that crosses the line between criminal law and estate planning law. Here’s how it works:

What Is First Degree Murder in New York?

Murder is the intentional killing of another. But it's not always so simple. The thing with murder and manslaughter is that there are multiple degrees and different types of killing.

The basic definition of murder is the unlawful killing of another with what lawyers call "malice aforethought." That term refers to the level of intent, which requires some degree of premeditation. By that, it doesn't necessarily mean that the murder was planned out. It just means that the murder was deliberate, or the product of a certain degree of recklessness.

At the highest level, a first degree murder charge is as bad as it gets. It's typically a murder with the highest level of intent and possibly other unfavorable circumstances.

Here's a look at first degree murder in New York:

Crossdressing Bankrobber, Released in 2011, Tries to Decapitate Friend

The family of Aston Barth, 33, got an unwanted surprise on Christmas Eve - they discovered a corpse in his closet! The head of the deceased was wrapped in plastic bags, while the body was wrapped in blankets. The stunned family notified authorities, who determined that the body, which had been there for more than a week, was Jason Campbell, 35, reports the Daily News.

When questioned by the police, Barth maintained that he did not want to face the death penalty. After being notified that New York no longer employs capital punishment, nor have they for quite some time, Barth confessed to the murder. He reportedly told police that an argument led to him strangling his friend. He then tried, unsuccessfully, to decapitate the body with an axe. When that failed, the wrapped the body up and stored it in his closet.

Bronx D.A.'s Novel Legal Strategy Fails; Gang Crime Isn't Terrorism

The highest court has spoken, and for Edgar Morales, an admitted gang member and alleged murderer, it spoke well. His conviction for the murder of a 10-year-old girl and for charges of terrorism were overturned by New York’s highest court - the Court of Appeals, reports The New York Times. In all likelihood, he’ll be retried on the murder charge, but at least for now, he is once again innocent until proven guilty.

How does gang crime and the murder of a child become terrorism? As we discussed before, Morales was one of the St. James Boys, a neighborhood gang that prosecutors argued were more interested in obtaining power than wealth. They were alleged to be behind a number of heinous crimes, including shooting into crowds, slashing rivals with knives, robbing restaurant patrons, and in the case of their youngest victim - having a shootout at a christening.

Police Suspect Professional Hitman Used in Law Student Murder

It may be stating the obvious, but the murder of 31-year-old law student Brandon Woodward was pulled off so brazenly and so professionally that police believe that the triggerman had killed before, reports The Associated Press. The surveillance video shows a well-planned execution, beginning with the shooter arriving early, pulling his hood over his head, and awaiting the arrival of the victim.

When Woodard arrived, he appeared to be searching for an address, pacing back and forth. The killer slipped behind him, pulled out a pistol, and shot him in the head. Before the trigger was even pulled, he had turned back towards the getaway car, which was already pulling into traffic. Police believed the killer lured the victim to the scene, perhaps using a fake address.

Man Charged for Subway Pushing; What About the Photographer?

The last moment of Ki Suk Han’s life was caught on film. A photographer, from the New York Post, managed to take an in focus picture of Han, trying to climb onto the platform, moments before he was struck by the oncoming train, all while trying to warn the oncoming train conductor by flashing his camera repeatedly.

The alleged murderer has been caught. Naeem Davis, 30, confessed after a transit cop recognized him from surveillance footage. Davis claimed that the two had bumped into each other at the turnstiles and continued to argue on the platform, reports the New York Post. Davis also reportedly told police, “I begged him to leave me alone, and he wouldn’t. He wouldn’t stay away, and I pushed him.” He was charged with murder earlier this morning.

Corkscrew Castrator Renato Seabra Convicted, Faces Life

The trial took two months. The jurors took only one day to convict Renato Seabra, 23, of murder and to dismiss his claims of insanity. Despite more than twenty physicians with St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center, Bellevue Hospital, and the Department of Corrections agreeing that Seabra suffered from a severe mental illness, the prosecutor’s expert, who testified that Seabra was not insane at the time of the murder, swayed the jury, reports the New York Times.

For those unfamiliar with Seabra’s horrific crime, he was charged with murder after brutally beating his lover, 65-year-old Carlos Castro, to death with a computer, a wine bottle, and other objects. He also reportedly removed Castro’s testicles with a corkscrew while the victim was still alive. During the trial, testimony was presented that Seabra removed Castro’s testicles and placed them on his wrists to draw their power.