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What is a Murder Conviction?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 16 November 2016
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A murder conviction is a jury verdict in which someone who has been accused of murder is found guilty. The standards for conviction in murder cases are very high to ensure that people are not falsely convicted and to protect the integrity of the justice system. Once a murder conviction is returned by the jury, the judge in the case can issue a sentence. This also typically triggers an appeals process, in which the convicted person challenges the conviction in a higher court.

Rather than being charged simply with “murder,” people are charged with murder in the form of a degree. Murder charges are divided into degrees to separate out different types of murders; whether or not the accused planned the murder and intended to kill the victim plays a role in determining which degree to assign to the charge. Murder also differs from manslaughter.

In order to return a murder conviction, the jury must hear the facts of the case as presented in court and then deliberate. They must determine that the prosecution in the case has proved beyond a reasonable doubt that a murder occurred and the accused committed the crime. The judge typically instructs the jury before they go into deliberation, reminding the jury of the charge, the definition of the charge, and the standards which must be met before the jury can return a guilty verdict.

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After a murder conviction, the judge passes sentence on the convicted person. Many regions have sentencing guidelines which are intended for use in such cases to keep sentences consistent and appropriate. The sentence may be complicated by additional charges in the case if the convict was also convicted on these charges. For example, someone convicted of murder, rape, and kidnapping will receive a different sentence than someone who is convicted of murder alone. The sentence includes jail time, and in some regions of the world, the death penalty.

It is possible to overturn a murder conviction. Convicted criminals typically appeal their cases and the appeals may show either that the convict is not actually guilty of the crime or that there were procedural errors which occurred during the trial. If there were procedural errors, the conviction is overturned, and a new trial must be held. Someone who has been falsely convicted of murder may also be entitled to receive compensation, depending on the rules in the legal system where the person was convicted.

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Animandel
Post 3

Justice is so much neater in murder mysteries and on TV shows. The detective always gets the right guy and the murderer always goes to jail just as he or she deserves.

Drentel
Post 2

@mobilian33 - I have served on a couple of juries in my lifetime, and what I learned is that you never know for certain what is going to happen once the jury goes behind closed doors to try to reach a verdict.

I was on one jury where everyone in the jury room knew in their hearts that the suspect was guilty, but by the letter of the law as it was explained to us by the judge, the prosecution had not proved beyond reasonable doubt that he was guilty. Even though we all wanted to send the guy to prison, we all voted not guilty, and he was released.

I was on another jury where it was pretty

much the same situation. There was reasonable doubt. However, the suspect was a career criminal and it was obvious to everyone in the courtroom that he had committed first degree murder to protect himself from being identified by a person who had seen him rob a store.

This guy was found guilty and as far as I know he is still in prison serving a life sentence with no chance of parole.

mobilian33
Post 1

In the first paragraph of this article it is mentioned that the standards for conviction in murder cases are very high, yet there are still too many people in prison who have been convicted of murders they didn't commit.

Seems like I read in the news almost daily about another convicted felon being released from prison because new DNA evidence has shown that he could not have committed the murder he was sent to prison for committing. I think it is good that there are high standards for murder convictions, but I wonder whether the standards should be even higher.

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