However, one point of importance is that once malicious intent to cause death is determined on the part of the person committing the crime, then there is no need to prove any awareness of or obligation to act in accordance with the established rules.
Murder is then classified as First Degree Murder and Second Degree Murder and as Voluntary or Involuntary Manslaughter. Section 189 of the California Penal Code defines Murder of First Degree as any act that causes the death of an individual by any person who knowing fully well, plans and commits the act with the intention of killing another using destructive or explosive device or by using large amounts of ammunition or using torture, poison,. It also includes any act of causing such death in order to commit another heinous crime like rape, robbery, theft etc. A brief reading of this definition shows that in order to constitute murder of first degree, firstly there should be knowledge that such an act would cause death, secondly there should be intention in the mind of the person committing such an act to cause death of another and finally the person should have planned or premeditated in advance.
For example, John and Stuart are good friends. John comes home and sees his wife in bed with Stuart and realizes that this is a routine affair. He leaves the house and a few days later he waits outside his house for Stuart to leave and kills him. This is first degree murder as there has been due premeditation and the accused has lay in wait for the victim ("Murder: First-Degree").
Second Degree Murder basically defines all acts of murder that neither fall under the category of first degree murder nor do they classify as voluntary manslaughter but lie somewhere in between. It has been defined as an act that is committed with the intention to cause death but which has not been planned in advance and is not committed in the heat of the moment. Another definition for such a murder is a death that is caused by the reckless and dangerous behavior of the accused without any consideration of human life. For example, John on finding Stuart with his wife intends to kill him and the next day he sees Stuart in another car and fires at him, the bullets however, do not hurt him but kill the driver of the car ("Murder: Second-Degree"). This constitutes Second Degree Murder as there is intention but no premeditation and definitely no action under provocation.
Section 189 of the California Penal Code defines the Felony Murder Rule. According to the provisions of this section, when any death is caused during the commission of any act of felony like rape, kidnapping, robbery, arson etc. and this death is caused so that the felony can be committed then such a person is guilty of First degree murder under the Felony Murder Rule. This provision goes on state that intention of causing death is not necessary and even accidental deaths caused may be punished under this rule as long as the intention to commit the felony is present (Tanaka & Lawrence, 2004). For example, in the case of People v. Coefield, 37, Cal. 2d 865, the defendant along with his accomplices were trying to rob a gasoline station. One of the accomplices was hitting the attendant with the gun and in the process accidentally shot the attendant. The Court held that the defendant was guilty under the Felony