I usually only watch television for sports, especially Ohio State football and basketball. However, when there is no football or basketball, I will sometimes watch crime dramas. My family knows that if I ever die under suspicious circumstances, I would like my family to ask the cast of the TV show Criminal Minds to investigate my death.
In the context of the death of a person that is caused by another person, people are often confused as to which words to use. Therefore, people sometimes use the words murder, homicide and manslaughter interchangeably. However, those words each mean very different things. To further confuse the situation, the words used in Ohio to describe deaths of people caused by others are often different from the words used under federal law and under other states’ laws.
Classifications of deaths caused by other people are typically organized by the mental state of the person who caused the death, as well as the circumstances surrounding the death.
Generally, murder is when the death of another is caused by someone who has (a) the intent to kill, (b) the intent to commit serious bodily harm, (c) an attitude of “reckless indifference” to an act that has a high risk of death of another person or (d) intent to commit a dangerous felony (even if there is not a specific intent to kill another person).
Many states use the term, “first degree murder.” In Ohio, first degree murder is called “aggravated murder.” Aggravated murder describes deaths in two primary contexts.
First, if a person is purposely killed by someone while that person is also committing a dangerous felony (such as a robbery or grand theft), then the death can be classified as aggravated murder.
Second, killings that were deliberately contemplated in advance (not done in the “heat of the moment”) can be classified as aggravated murders.
What is often called second-degree murder elsewhere is simply called “murder” in Ohio. Any murder that is not aggravated murder is simply called “murder” in Ohio.
When the killing of another person is not murder, the killing may be manslaughter. Manslaughter is categorized into two types: voluntary and involuntary.
Voluntary manslaughter includes situations that would be murder, except for the fact that the person who caused the death was provoked. Generally, words (like insults or threats) are not considered adequate provocation. However, finding a spouse in bed with another person or facing the imminent threat of deadly force (such as an intruder with a gun or knife) are typically recognized as sufficient provocations to have a murder instead be classified as voluntary manslaughter.
Involuntary manslaughter includes situations where a person knows that his or her conduct risks death but still undertakes the activity. For example, playing Russian Roulette that results in the death of another person would satisfy this standard.
Involuntary manslaughter also usually includes deaths that result from situations where the person causing the death was committing a non-violent felony or a misdemeanor when the death occurred.
Lee R. Schroeder is an Ohio licensed attorney at Schroeder Law LLC in Putnam County. He limits his practice to business, real estate, estate planning and agriculture issues in northwest Ohio. He can be reached at [email protected] or at 419-659-2058. This article is not intended to serve as legal advice, and specific advice should be sought from the licensed attorney of your choice based upon the specific facts and circumstances that you face.