Manslaughter is a legal term for the killing of a human being in a manner considered less culpable than murder. The culpability is based on the mens rea (state of mind). Where murder requires either the intent to kill or malice aforethought, manslaughter usually involves an unintentional killing but with a willful disregard for life.
While manslaughter is usually broken down into two categories (voluntary and involuntary), Kentucky law distinguishes these by assigning a degree:
Manslaughter in the first degree
(1) A person is guilty of manslaughter in the first degree when:
(a) With intent to cause serious physical injury to another person, he causes the death of such person or of a third person; or
(b) With intent to cause the death of another person, he causes the death of such person or of a third person under circumstances which do not constitute murder because he acts under the influence of extreme emotional disturbance.
(2) Manslaughter in the first degree is a Class B felony.
Examples of First Degree Manslaughter:
Mary goes home to find her husband in bed with another woman. She immediately goes into an angry rage and hits her husband over the head with a wine bottle. He dies a few hours later from the head injury.
John breaks into Fred's home to steal a stereo. Fred surprises him and a struggle ensues. Fred falls to the ground suffering a heart attack from the stressful situation. He dies.
Local Manslaughter In the News: Larry Mahoney was convicted of twenty seven counts of manslaughter in the second degree after his pickup truck collided head on with a school bus on May 14, 1988, in Carroll County, Kentucky. The bus's ruptured fuel tank ignited immediately, resulting in the death of twenty seven people. Mahoney's blood alcohol concentration was .24 percent at the time of the accident. He was sentenced to imprisonment for sixteen years and was released in September 1999 after serving almost eleven years.
Manslaughter in the second degree
(1) A person is guilty of manslaughter in the second degree when he wantonly causes the death of another person, including, but not limited to, situations where the death results from the person's:
(a) Operation of a motor vehicle; or
(b) Leaving a child under the age of eight (8) years in a motor vehicle under circumstances which manifest an extreme indifference to human life and which create a grave risk of death to the child, thereby causing the death of the child.
(2) Manslaughter in the second degree is a Class C felony.
Examples of Second Degree Manslaughter:
Lilly is driving too fast, loses control of her vehicle, and crashes into a tree. Her friend, Joan, who is a passenger, is killed on impact.
Betty is driving her 2-year-old son to day care when her car breaks down. She leaves him in the car while she goes for help, careful to lock it up. It is 95 degrees outside. Her baby dies from the extreme heat.
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