Pennsylvania Second Degree Murder Laws
In Pennsylvania, criminal homicide, the unlawful death of a human being, includes three (3) types of murder and two (2) types of manslaughter, voluntary and involuntary. A criminal homicide constitutes murder of the second degree when it is committed while defendant was engaged as a principal or an accomplice in the perpetration of a felony.
Pennsylvania state laws use the felony-murder rule as the basis for the prosecution of a homicide as a second degree murder. The felony murder rule describes a homicide committed during the commission of an underlying felony such as burglary, robbery, rape, kidnapping, and other crimes listed by state law.
Pennsylvania laws require proof of malice to distinguish murder from manslaughter. To prove malice in a murder case, the prosecutor must show the defendant’s general intent to commit an unlawful act or achieve a harmful result. In a second degree murder case, the prosecutor can infer malice from the defendant’s intent to participate in the underlying felony.
In addition, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant had a specific intent to kill. The defendant’s specific intent allows the state to prosecute the homicide as murder instead of manslaughter. For a second degree murder charge, Pennsylvania law infers a specific intent to kill from the defendant’s intent to carry out the underlying felony. A defendant may be liable for murder even if he did not intend to kill anyone, as long as he did intend to participate in the crime which resulted in the victim’s death.