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Murder

Iowa law provides for many different ways that murder charges can be alleged including:

This article discusses the elements of the offense of murder, defenses to the charges, inferences that can be used by the prosecutor, and the penalties imposed after a conviction.

Attorney for Murder Charges in Des Moines, Iowa

For any murder investigation, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. Murder and homicide cases are the most serious criminal offenses prosecuted in the State of Iowa.

Our attorneys at McCarthy & Hamrock, P.C. represent clients throughout the five counties in the greater Des Moines area including Polk County, Dallas County, Warren County, Madison County, Jasper County and Marion County.

Call (515) 279-9700 today to discuss your case.


Murder In The First Degree - Premeditation, Willfulness, Deliberation

Under Iowa Code section 707.2(1), the elements of murder in the first degree involving premeditation, willfulness, and deliberation require proof beyond all reasonable doubt of the following elements:

  1. The defendant shot or struck the victim.
  2. The victim died as a result of being shot or struck.
  3. The defendant acted with malice aforethought.
  4. The defendant acted willfully, deliberately, premeditatedly and with a specific intent to kill the victim.

Murder In The First Degree - Participating In A Forcible Felony

The elements of murder in the first degree involving participating in a forcible felony require proof beyond all reasonable doubt of the following elements:

  1. The defendant shot or struck the victim.
  2. The victim died as a result of being shot or struck.
  3. The defendant acted with malice aforethought.
  4. The defendant was participating in a forcible felony.

Murder In The First Degree - Escape From Lawful Custody

The elements of murder in the first degree involving an escape from lawful custody require proof beyond all reasonable doubt of the following elements:

  1. The defendant shot or struck the victim.
  2. The victim died as a result of being shot or struck.
  3. The defendant acted with malice aforethought.
  4. The defendant did so while escaping or attempting to escape from lawful custody.

Murder In The First Degree - Killing Of A Peace Officer

The elements of murder in the first degree involving the killing of a peace officer requires proof beyond all reasonable doubt of the following elements:

  1. The defendant intentionally shot or struck the victim.
  2. The victim died as a result of being shot or struck.
  3. The defendant acted with malice aforethought.
  4. The defendant intentionally killed the victim.
  5. The defendant acted while imprisoned in a correctional institution, city jail or county jail.
  6. The victim was a peace officer, correctional officer, public employee or hostage.

Murder In The Second Degree

For the crime of murder in the second degree, the prosecutor with the State of Iowa must prove the following offenses beyond a reasonable doubt including:

  1. The defendant shot or struck the victim.
  2. The victim died as a result of being shot or struck.
  3. The defendant acted with malice aforethought.

Murder In The Second Degree does not require a specific intent to kill another person.


Definitions in Iowa's Murder Charges

The term “willful" means intentional or by fixed design or purpose and not accidental. The term ”to deliberate" is defined as to weigh in one's mind, to consider, to contemplate, or to reflect.

The definition of the term “premeditate" is to think or ponder upon a matter before acting.

Under Iowa law, deliberation and premeditation need not exist for any particular length of time before the act. The term ”malice" is a state of mind which leads one to intentionally do a wrongful act to the injury of another or in disregard of the rights of another out of actual hatred, or with an evil or unlawful purpose.

It may be established by evidence of actual hatred, or by proof of a deliberate or fixed intent to do injury. It may be found from the acts and conduct of the defendant, and the means used in doing the wrongful and injurious act. Malice requires only such deliberation that would make a person appreciate and understand the nature of the act and its consequences, as distinguished from an act done in the heat of passion.

The term “malice aforethought" is a fixed purpose or design to do some physical harm to another which exists before the act is committed. It does not have to exist for any particular length of time.


Inferences in Murder Cases in Iowa

Iowa law provides for several different inferences that can be read to the jury when deemed appropriate by the trial judge including:

Dangerous Weapon Inference - If a person has the opportunity to deliberate and uses a dangerous weapon against another resulting in death, you may, but are not required to, infer that the weapon was used with malice, premeditation and specific intent to kill. Forcible Felony Inference. Malice may be inferred from the commission of (felony) which results in death.

Dangerous Weapon - Malice Inference - Malice aforethought may be inferred from the defendant's use of a dangerous weapon.

Cause of Death - When the cause of death is an issue in the case, Iowa law provides a presumption that the wound inflicted or the wrongful act by the defendant resulted in the death of the victim, if it caused or directly contributed to the victim's death. However, if the jury finds, in the treatment of the wounds, another was negligent to the extent that such negligence was the sole cause of death, then the act or acts of the defendant did not result in the death of the victim.

Unintended Victim - If the jury finds that the dispute, fight, appropriate word or phrase involved a third person, then the defendant's intent and state of mind are to be determined by his or her conduct toward a third person. Defendant's guilt is to be determined upon the same basis as if the third person had been killed instead of the victim.


This article was last updated on Friday, July 14, 2017.

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