Murder in the First Degree


Fundamentals of Criminal Law

Adam J. McKee, Ph.D.

Jack Brown, Ph.D.


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First-degree murder can be accomplished in three ways:

  1. A person commits murder in the first degree if he commits or attempts to commit a felony, and in the course of and in the furtherance of the felony or in immediate flight therefrom, he or an accomplice causes the death of any person under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life.
  2. A person commits murder the first degree if he, with the purpose of causing the death of another person, he causes the death of another person.
  3. A person commits murder in the first degree if he knowingly causes the death of a person 14 years of age or younger at the time the murder was committed. 

The statute also provides an affirmative defense to a defendant who was not the only participant and who can show all of the following:

  • He or she did not commit the homicidal act or in any way solicit, command, induce, procure, counsel, or aid its commission
  • He or she was not armed with a deadly weapon
  • He or she reasonably believed that no other participant was armed with a deadly weapon
  • He or she reasonably believed that no other participant intended to engage in conduct which could result in death or serious physical injury 

Murder in the first degree usually represents the most serious class of crimes that are not death penalty eligible, which is a Class Y felony for our Arkansas example.


Modification History

File Created:  07/17/2018

Last Modified:  07/17/2018

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This work is licensed under an Open Educational Resource-Quality Master Source (OER-QMS) License.

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