What is first degree murder?

I meant to post this a few days ago in response to the conviction of Ralph Lewis in the fatal accident that killed 16-year-old Corey Diamond (CLICK HERE FOR STORY).  Apparently the jury didn’t take much time, under three hours in fact, in deciding that yes, he is guilty of first-degree murder.  This story made me wonder just what constitutes first-degree murder.  I had always thought that first-degree murder was a premeditated killing.  The killer planned to kill someone and then carried it out.  Maybe the plan wasn’t always long and drawn out, but could have been mere seconds ago, “Okay, I’ve drawn my gun and I’m going to shoot you now.”  That would cover killing police and vicims in armed robbery.

So what happened in the case of Ralph Lewis killing Corey Diamond?  Well, apparently Lewis was trying to get away from police after a botched attempt to make a purchase from a store using false ID.  He wove in and out of traffic and through red lights until finally smashing into the car where Diamond was a passenger.  Now, in my mind, first-degree murder in this death would have meant Lewis thought to himself while trying to get away from the police, “Hey, here’s a car with some people in it- I think I’ll just crash my truck into it and see if I can kill anyone.”  This of course is not what happened and even the article discussing his conviction doesn’t say it happened this way.  So it would seem that I am wrong in what constitutes first-degree murder.  Here’s what Wikipedia says about the subject:

After the Supreme Court placed new requirements on the imposition of the death penalty, most states adopted one of two schemes. In both, third degree murder became the catch-all, while first degree murder was split. The difference was whether some or all first degree murders should be eligible for the most serious penalty (generally death, but sometimes life in prison without the possibility of parole.).

  • The first scheme, used by Pennsylvania among other states:
  1. First Degree Murder: A premeditated murder, and (in some states) murders involving certain especially dangerous felonies, such as arson or rape, or committed by an inmate serving a life sentence.
  2. Second Degree Murder: Non pre-meditated killing.
  3. Third Degree Murder: Any other murder.
  1. First Degree Murder: Murder involving special circumstances, such as murder of a police officer, judge, fireman or witness to a crime; multiple murders; and torture or especially heinous murders. Note that a “regular” premeditated murder, absent such special circumstances, is not a first-degree murder; murders by poison or “lying in wait” are not per se first-degree murders. First degree murder is pre-meditated. [55] However, the New York Court of Appeals struck down the death penalty as unconstitutional in the case of People v. Taylor.[56]
  2. Second Degree Murder: Any premeditated murder or felony murder that does not involve special circumstances.[57]

The death of Corey Diamond doesn’t seem to fit the definition of any of these.  But then Wikipedia just has a generalized definition for the entire US.  As this happened in Illinois, a look at IL law is necessary.  From the Illinois Criminal Code of 1961:

(a) A person who kills an individual without lawful justification commits first degree murder if, in performing the acts which cause the death:

(1) he either intends to kill or do great bodily harm

to that individual or another, or knows that such acts will cause death to that individual or another; or

(2) he knows that such acts create a strong

probability of death or great bodily harm to that individual or another; or

(3) he is attempting or committing a forcible felony

other than second degree murder.

The rest of this section of code is about the death penalty.  As far as this case goes, apparently they got Lewis on the second one listed.  My own thought on first-degree murder seems to be contained in the first part and so was clearly limited, at least in Illinois law.  So it sounds like any time someone does something that they know could lead to “a strong probability of death or great bodily harm” to someone they could be found guilty of first-degree murder.  Is it just me or does this seem kind of broad?  Say in the classic example of moving a very heavy object like a piano or safe either to or from a second (or higher) story room using a rope and going through the window.  Now suppose, also from the classic example, that the rope breaks just as someone is passing under so that the piano/safe kills the person.  By Illinois law, the people moving the piano/safe are guilty of first-degree murder since they knew there was a possibility that the rope could break, causing the death of anyone who happens to be passing below at the time!

Am I just being pedantic about all of this, or does this case make you wonder too?  I’m not saying that Lewis was completely innocent of everything and should walk away scott-free.  Crimes were clearly committed, but should one of them have been counted first-degree murder?  Please discuss.

Currently reading…

I am a reader.  I have been a reader since I was a child, especially of science fiction and fantasy.  I remember back when I was around ten, reading a book series about an alien called a “Martinean” who everyone called Martin E. Ann, assuming that was his name.  Except for the boy who knew he was an alien of course.  I don’t remember anything about that series aside from that, but it shows that I have been reading for awhile.  I have read some Isaac Asimov, Ben Bova, Piers Anthony, Terry Goodkind, Terry Brooks, Terry Pratchett, Alan Dean Foster, Robert Jordan, and more.  Currently I picked up a new book at the library from Timothy Zahn, called The Third Lynx.  Noting this was the second book in a series, I also picked up Night Train to Rigel from the non-recent stacks and read it first.  Now before I continue, I should say that there are a few types of books.  There are those that you take one look at and then leave on the shelf.  Then there are those that you read for a bit and then realize that reading that book is just a waste of time, so you either force your way through it just so you can say you finished it or you stop reading it.  I actually had a book of this type recently, a Star Trek Titan book part of a post-Nemesis movie about Captain Riker and his starship, Titan.  I read one by a homosexual author who put a scene in the book that served no purpose other than to say that he believes in homosexual relationships.  In fact, you could remove those pages entirely and no one would ever realize it was missing as it had no bearing on the plot.  Anyway, I digress.  After finishing that one, part of the third category I have yet to mention, I checked out another one where they found entire groups of the giant sentient “spaceships” Captain Picard and company encountered at Farpoint way, way back in the very first Next Generation episode.  After getting about halfway through I realized that the book was just not my type of book so I stopped reading it.

The third category included those books that you read and finish, but are just not memorable.  You finish the last page, close the book, and go, “meh- whatever.”  The last category is the book you just can’t put down.  Timothy Zahn is one author who writes books like these, at least in my view.  Star Wars fans might find his name familiar as he had the first books out in the newly approved-for-writing post-episode-VI universe.  This first trilogy consisted of the books Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, and The Last Command.  Leia and Han Solo are now married and give birth to twins Jacen and Jaina, and later Anakin (you know who he’s named after…).  Luke starts taking on students would would become new Jedi.  I read this series about ten or so years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it.  When he wrote a couple more Star Wars books I was quick to read those as well.  He introduces a new enemy known as Grand Admiral Thrawn.  He was an extremely brilliant alien strategist bent on keeping the Empire alive after Palpatine was gone.

His new books star a character who bears some resemblance to Thrawn in that he is is quite brilliant in his own trade, as an investigator, or spy.  Once employed by a government agency, Frank Compton had a falling out and was fired, though not for lack of competence.  He has just taken on a job for someone when another one falls in his lap in the form of someone who dies just as he finds Frank.  Frank picks from his pocket a quadrail (futuristic train that travels interstellar distances) ticket in his name, and leaves immediately to discover an answer to this mystery and is led to the one who would hire him, leaving the first job on the backburner- or did he?  The employer for the first job is only revealed later in the book, and the job he was hired to do not until the very end.  There are some imperfections in the books, but overall they are also books that I can’t put down. I will definitely be adding Zahn to the list of authors I will be keeping an eye out for, and I will have to read the other books he’s written as well.

Rubik’s Cube for the tech-savvy

How does a techie solve a Rubik’s Cube?  Simple, he builds a machine to do it!  Even geekier is the fact that the machine is made out of Legos.  Check it out:

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Original site:  Tilted Twister

Youngest graduate from the academy…

Maybe not, but this 11-year old has the makings of a civil servant one day.  Upset about speeders, he decided to do something about it.  He dressed up in a helmet and reflective vest, armed himself with a toy radar gun, and stood off to the side of the road measuring the speed of drivers coming down the road.  Let me just post the article for you.  It’s short, but to see a picture click on the link below.  It’s also almost a week old, so you may have already read it.  I just discovered it today, so tough. 🙂

Boy, 11, tracks speeders with toy radar gun

Wed Jul 16, 7:59 PM ET

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Police can’t be everywhere, so 11-year-old Landon Wilburn is on patrol in the Stone Lakes subdivision in Louisville. Landon told The Courier-Journal he used to shout at speeders to slow down — then had a better idea.

Dressed in a reflective vest, wearing a bicycle helmet and armed with a Hot Wheels brand radar gun, he points and records the speed of passing traffic.

The boy also carries a flashlight with a built-in siren.

Subdivision resident George Ayers said he has seen drivers lock up their brakes when they saw Landon clocking them.

Officials say the city will install speed humps in the neighborhood if 70 percent of residents agree and are willing to put up half the money.

The fun side of campaigning

If you haven’t seen it yet, do yourself a favor and get on down to jibjab.com to see the video they have for this year, then go ahead and put yerself into it!  I was going to but in the end decided not to.  I was also going to post a Youtube video but their recompression doesn’t do it justice- just go to jibjab.com and get campaignin’!  Still reading?  Well let me just say that I thought this was every bit as good as their original four years ago.  I was disappointed in their second one that seemed to have a leaning toward the Democratic side, but they seem to be back in the original non-partisan comedy routine.  Now would you do yourself a favor and just see it already? 😀


Since my blogging friends are big movie buffs, I thought I would mention a couple of movies that I have watched recently.  While they likely saw them in the theater when released, I of course watched them on DVD which provide nice extras in the form of deleted scenes and such.  Recently I checked out from the library called The Transporter.  This movie was about a professional driver named Frank Martin (played by Jason Statham, someone I had never heard about before this movie), and I don’t mean racing.  This driver works for whoever needs him, no questions asked.  He is organized to a fault and has a strict code, or set of rules he follows.  When I say organized to a fault I mean he has spare suits neatly folded and wrapped in the trunk of his car for those occasions where someone tries to off him and messes up his clothes.  Of course, he is well versed in the martial arts and can hold his own against over half a dozen opponents at once though with his normal GQ demeanor you would never guess until the first roundhouse.

At the start of this movie you find him making a transaction on the phone and then he is off on business, precisely on time.  He stops in front of a bank, the alarms go off, and the clients run out the bank to his car.  Only there’s a slight problem- the clients have suddenly changed the negotiated terms and that just won’t do.  No leaving until things are settled, Frank’s way of course.  Never mind the sirens getting closer and closer as he refuses to leave until the terms are met.  Once they are about to be busted, they settle things, Frank starts his car, and they are off on a chase that involves a lot of destruction and closeups of him changing gears.  When the dust finally settles, the pursuit has been shaken and his obligation met and paid for (the precise amount- see the movie for what I mean) he heads home, calmly changes the license plates on his car with one of several backups and walks in, eventually joined by an inspector who noticed Frank’s car happened to match the description of the getaway vehicle.  If only the plates matched…

Anyway, soon he is off on his next assignment.  On it, he happens to break one of his own rules and the movie takes off from there.  Lots of action in this movie as you can imagine.  I recommend it to action buffs.

I didn’t realize there was a sequel to this movie until just last week when I saw Transporter 2 at the library (can you tell where I get the majority of movies I watch? 😀 ) just waiting for me to snatch it up.  I just watched it the other day and it was every bit as action-packed and entertaining as the first.  This time, however, the transportation job he has is a bit more legit.  Once he takes care of some would-be car-jackers at the beginning, he straightens up his clothing, complains about being off schedule, and heads off.  Of course he is precisely on time when he arrives, meaning he must have made up for the time on his way.  Eventually, he learns the hard way eventually that his clients are the target of someone who is not too happy with the work one of them is doing in cleaning up crime.  Long story short, Frank becomes the victim of something more than his own misdeeds and is falsely accused of being involved, a big chase scene occurs, and Frank is left to his own to take care of the real criminals and clear his name.  The inspector (played by François Berléand who has a very long resumé at IMDB) is back, this time on vacation at Frank’s place, getting caught up in the middle.  In both movies he is an invaluable resource for Frank helping him get things taken care of.

In any event, again I highly recommend these movies for those interested in action flicks.  Transporter 3 is due out in November of this year and I will probably be seeing it in the theater instead of waiting for the DVD.  For those who know me, that’s a recommendation in itself.  😛

I’m curious…

Does anyone view the videos I post?  There have been no comments at all on either the Godtube one I posted two weeks ago, nor on the Archie videos.  Are they just uninteresting?  No time maybe?  I’m thinking of posting more videos, but if no one watches them then there’s probably no point.

As for this site, I suspect if I continue it will have to undergo a name change.  Now that I am no longer on a track to teach, at least for now, I am not likely to go back to subbing.  I usually enjoy it, but it really doesn’t pay the bills.  If I was capable of running an online business in addition to it I would probably continue, but I have to find a real job, doing what is still to be determined.  I still believe God was trying to tell me something those years ago when I was reading an article about teachers. I can only trust that if it wasn’t to be a teacher, then that something is still out there waiting for me to determine what it is.