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October 7, 2018

High-profile, second-degree murder verdict in Illinois (which is actually comparable to voluntary manslaughter in Ohio)

At the risk of creating confusion by highlighting quirks in how Illinois approaches degrees of homicide, I thought it notable how a Chicago jury on Friday chose to convict police officer Jason Van Dyke of second-degree murder, rather than first-degree murder, in the 2014 shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald (basics here from my main blog).  Notably, the prosecution was seeking a first-degree murder conviction, but the jury potentially used provocation-like doctrines (and/or what is sometimes know as "imperfect self-defense") to convict Van Dyke of a lesser charge, though in Illinois this lesser charge is called second-degree murder rather than manslaughter.

(Notably, the Illinois second-degree murder provocation language asks if "at the time of the killing he or she is acting under a sudden and intense passion resulting from serious provocation by the individual killed." This seems pretty similar to the Ohio voluntary manslaughter provocation language about an offender being "under the influence of sudden passion or in a sudden fit of rage, either of which is brought on by serious provocation occasioned by the victim that is reasonably sufficient to incite the person into using deadly forced.")

If you are at all troubled by the provocation doctrines used at common law (and still in the MPC and ORC) to call some killings manslaughter rather than murder, might you find these doctrines less worrisome if we adopted the Illinois approach of still calling partially mitigated killings another form of "murder"?  As you consider this issue, think about whether it is the label that matters most or the sentencing consequences that goes with the label. 

October 7, 2018 in Current Affairs, Notable real cases | Permalink


I like the MPC approach...get rid of the labels and let the sentencing figure it out. Then we don’t need to sit around and debate the culpability of a voluntary manslaughterer versus a second degree murderer

Posted by: Christopher wald | Oct 8, 2018 10:38:01 AM

If anyone is interested in learning more about this case, there is a good podcast called "16 Shots" produced by WBEZ Chicago. If you only have time for one episode, I'd suggest episode 5 because it touches on charging and mens rea. There are also some interesting episodes that discuss jury selection and prosecutorial/defense strategies, too. Recommended listening for a long drive if you're traveling somewhere over fall break (it kept me entertained on my two-hour drive to my parents)!

Posted by: Hannah Wirt | Oct 11, 2018 8:57:31 PM

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