Of all the forms of homicide for which you can face prosecution in Missouri, first-degree murder is the most serious. As FindLaw explains, Missouri law categorizes first-degree murder as a Class A felony. If convicted, you could face the death penalty or, at best, life in prison without any possibility of parole.
To convict you of first-degree murder, however, the prosecutor must prove that you deliberately and intentionally killed someone for no justifiable reason after contemplating your actions ahead of time.
In addition to “regular” first-degree murder, Missouri law also provides for first-degree murder with aggravating circumstances, conviction of which almost assures the death penalty. Aggravating circumstances include the following:
- You murdered your victim during the commission of a serious crime, such as kidnapping, robbery, burglary, rape or sodomy.
- You murdered him or her while participating in criminal street gang activity.
- Your victim was a judge, prosecutor, elected official, firefighter, police officer or corrections officer who was acting in his or her official capacity at the time of the murder; alternatively, he or she was a prison inmate at the time of the murder.
Complete defenses that could result in your acquittal include the following:
- Lack of knowledge of the murder
- Lack of intent to commit murder
Incomplete defenses that could result in a reduction of your sentence upon conviction, include the following:
- Insanity, i.e., lack of mental capacity to appreciate the nature of your action or the law against it
- Acting while under extreme duress
- Consent on the part of the victim; for example, assisted suicide
Keep in mind that, even if a jury acquits you, the victim’s family can nevertheless bring an action for wrongful death against you in civil court.