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Difference between Capital Murder and First-Degree Murder

Capital Murder vs. First-Degree Murder

To look from a very basic point of view, Capital Murder and First-Degree Murder can be considered to be the same crime. However, if one dwells deep into these topics, then the very fine difference between the two can be understood. First-Degree Murder is that type of murder which has been premeditated, i.e. the killer has planned the murder very carefully and then plotted his target such that it gets into the trap. This is a fully thought over and well-crafted strategy to attack. On the other hand, Capital Murder is any degree of murder which can only be sentenced with the death penalty. It does not matter if the murder is pre-planned or accidental if it is being sentenced with the death penalty, it is Capital Murder.

Difference Chart

Capital MurderFirst-Degree Murder
IntentionThe intention may or may not be pre-defined.The intention is pre-defined.
EquipmentThe killer can be or cannot be carrying the necessary tool for successfully carrying out the murder.The killer is mostly very well equipped or at least has the best possible murdering object for the target.
PunishmentAll Capital Murderers are definitely sentenced with the death penalty.All First-Degree murderers may not be sentenced with the death penalty.
RelevanceAll Capital Murders are not necessarily bound to be called First-Degree murders.All First-Degree murders have the potential to be called Capital Murders.
IntensityAll Capital Murders are definitely very high in intensity.Not all First-Degree murders are very high in intensity.

Capital Murder

Murdering someone is a sinful crime which cannot be forgiven. While there are certain murders that are totally intentional, some accidents also lead to the murder. There have been many cases where a murder has been committed, but all by mistake, then the judiciary may be kind enough to grant a life imprisonment or the penalties alike. But there are certain murders which have to be convicted with a death penalty and such murders are known as Capital Murders. They have no relation with the type of murder, choice of weapon or the reason behind murdering. If the judiciary has decided upon it being a Capital Murder, then it is.

First-Degree Murder

First-Degree murder is the type where the whole murder scene has been retraced from an idea or a plan. This type of murder is fully dependent on the intentions and preparation of the killer. There may or may not be a high level of determination in the killer to make the act a final one. But still, if a murder has been planned beforehand and then executed, then it is to be considered as a First-Degree murder. For example, a man has plotted to poison his enemy, and he is successful in carrying it out, the murder will be called a First-Degree Murder as it has been fully planned beforehand.

Key Differences

  1. While both Capital Murder and First-Degree Murder can seem to be very similar, the most basic difference between them both is that a First-Degree Murder is always planned from before, but the Capital Murder can just be a reflex on a specific moment.
  2. Capital Murder is the topmost level of crime, as it is the murder which has been considered by the judiciary to be so inhuman that the only punishment is a death sentence. On the other hand, First-Degree Murder may or may not be severe enough to be considered as a Capital Murder.
  3. The main purpose of punishing a criminal is to protect the masses from the dangers of that person. So the punishment for First-Degree Murder can range from a long time in prison to life imprisonment and also death. But the punishment for Capital Murder is always death.
  4. Since the majority of the First-Degree Murders are given the death penalty, it will not be wrong to quote that majorly “all First-Degree Murders are Capital Murders but not all Capital Murders are First-Degree Murders”.
  5. A First-Degree Murder can be very nicely planned with an opportunity to let the killer practice well, but a Capital Murder can happen in simple reflex, and the killer may not be ready at all.
  6. A Capital Murder is very high in its intensity, and this is why it is threatened with the death penalty. But a First-Degree Murder cannot be very cruel and inhuman in its intensity.
  7. The First-Degree Murder is a very deliberate act, and thus the killer might even escape conviction with a swift movement, whereas a Capital Murder is termed so only after the conviction of the guilty.

Video Explanation

Hence, we see that there is a very thin layer of difference between Capital Murder and First-Degree Murder, but it is at the same time, very important to know how the law has constructed and structured the two differently.

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