SECOND-DEGREE murder is a common charge in many of the killings that have fueled the Black Lives Matter movement.

The charges in a murder case range between first-degree murder, second-degree murder, and felony murder.

What is second-degree murder?

Second-degree murder is defined as intentional murder that is not premeditated, is intended to only cause bodily harm or displays an obvious lack of concern for human life. 

Exact qualifications between second-degree murder and first-degree murder vary from state to state.

The punishment for second-degree murder is less severe of that than for first-degree murder but more intense than manslaughter.

Generally second-degree murder does not allow for the death penalty.

What is the punishment for second-degree murder?

After a jury has found a defendant guilty of second-degree murder, the case moves onto sentencing.

There are many factors that go into deciding the penalties for a defendant including the language of the law, the facts of the case, the defendant's criminal history, whether it qualifies as a hate crime, and whether a firearm was used in the crime.

The federal statute states that anyone guilty of second-degree murder shall be imprisoned for any number of years up to a life sentence.  

A judge can increase the sentence if the defendant's actions were exceptionally heinous, cruel, brutal, or degrading to the victim.

What are common defenses against a murder charge?

A common defense against murder is claiming the killing was justifiable or in self-defense.

Some defenses highlight the defendant’s mental capacity claiming insanity, intoxication, and even the defendant’s youth as a defense to a murder charge.

A defendant can also claim that they reacted in the heat of passion, to lower their charge to voluntary manslaughter or avoid charges altogether.

If the defendant is a government official, they can rely on qualified immunity which shields them from being held personally liable for constitutional violations in a civil case as long as the official did not violate “clearly established” law. 

Was Derek Chauvin convicted of second-degree murder?

Chauvin was convicted of second-degree murder which holds a maximum sentence of 40 years in Minnesota.

He was also convicted of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter which have maximum sentences of 25 and 10 years in Minnesota.

Second-degree murder charges were also filed in the cases regarding the killings of Daunte Wright, Breonna Taylor, Philandro Castile, Trayvon Martin, and others who are associated with the Black Lives Matter movement.

However in those cases no one was convicted.

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