The Model Penal Code adopts a four-tier formula hierarchy of mental states:
A crime may require one of these states of mind with respect to a particular objective element (conduct,
circumstance, or result).
If no culpability is specifically required in the definition of the crime, Model Penal
Code § 2.02(3) specifies that "recklessness" is the minimum required culpability.
Proof of a higher level of
culpability is sufficient for an element that requires a lower culpability because the scheme is hierarchical.
Common Law Homicide:
Causing the death,
Of a living human being,
Where death occurs within a year and a day.
Common law homicide was divided into murder, voluntary manslaughter, and involuntary manslaughter (it did
not separate murder into degrees, as modern statutes do).
NOTE: In most states, there is no statute of limitations applicable to homicide.
There are three kinds of common law homicide:
Murder (unlawful killing with malice aforethought), voluntary manslaughter (same as murder but also requires
adequate provocation), and involuntary manslaughter (two types: criminal negligence manslaughter, and
unlawful act (or misdemeanor) manslaughter).
COMPARE: It's modern states that impose different degrees of murder. Typically, felony murder and
premeditated and deliberated murder are considered more serious, "first degree" murders; all others, second
The Model Penal Code lists aggravating factors and mitigating factors, to take into account for the purpose of
sentencing. The MPC has two classifications of murder: One, purposeful or knowing killing; and two, conduct
reckless "under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life."
RATIONALE: The premeditation of a murder should not in itself demand the severest punishment, e.g., a
mercy killing, which can reflect "extraordinary circumstances" more so than defendant's character; and some
non-premeditated killings are so depraved as to merit severe punishment.
Common Law Murder v. Voluntary Manslaughter:
In essence, manslaughter is murder except it's committed under adequate provocation (e.g., heat of passion).
Murder requires unlawful killing with "malice aforethought" (i.e., intent to kill, knowledge of death or
unreasonably high risk of injury will result / “depraved heart”, or intent to commit a felony).
*Murder requires an unlawful killing with malice aforethought. Voluntary manslaughter requires a killing
committed under adequate provocation. At common law, adequate provocation required:
ADEQUATE PROVOCATION: The provocation is judged objectively - i.e., it would arouse sudden
and intense passion in the mind of an average person, thus making him lose self-control;
HEAT OF PASSION: The provocation must be judged subjectively; the defendant must actually be
NO TIME TO "COOL OFF": The killing
occurred in a "heat of passion," i.e., the killer must not have