What Constitutes First and Second Degree Murder?

tertia-van-rensburg-37121-copy-300x224On December 5 of this year, a man from Des Plaines was charged with murder after one of his relatives died suspiciously in the West Pullman neighborhood of Chicago.

According to a spokeswoman for the Chicago Police Department, 47-year-old Robbie Barnes was charged with first degree murder.

58-year-old Rosalind Appling was overheard quarreling with Barnes in her home. After the argument, Barnes allegedly closed the door upon leaving and asked family members not to disturb Rosalind because she was sleeping.

Rosalind was discovered a few days later. She sustained serious injuries to her neck and head.

If you are facing a charge of murder, a criminal defense attorney can help by carefully examining the facts of your case and devising a sound defense.

The Degrees of Murder in Illinois

The crime of murder can be charged in one of two degrees.

Those charged with first degree murder could be sentenced to a state prison term of 25 years to life. A charge of murder in the first degree occurs when:

  • The defendant had the intention of killing or causing severe bodily harm
  • The defendant committed or attempted to commit a forcible felony, such as rape, during the course of the murder.
  • The defendant knew their actions would cause great bodily harm or death.

Defenses for first degree murder include:

  • A lack of knowledge
  • A lack of intent
  • Self-defense
  • Intoxication
  • Insanity

First degree murder is a very serious offense in the state of Illinois. Penalties are dependent on the circumstances surrounding the crime and who the victim was. A skilled murder criminal defense attorney can provide highly effective representation if you are facing this charge.

In Illinois, second degree murder is comparable to first. The difference is that second degree murder has mitigating circumstances that reduce the charge. For a successful conviction, prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt the defendant killed someone without any legal justification and also:

  • Had the intention of killing or causing great bodily harm or was aware the act would do so


  • Knew the act would have a high probability of causing death or great bodily harm

To be considered for second degree murder, the defendant must prove at the time of the murder:

  • He or she acted under intense and sudden passion as a result of being provoked by the victim


  • He or she, under sudden passion, attempted to murder someone else, but unintentionally killed the victim instead.


  • He or she believed the murder was justified, but that belief was not reasonable.

Defenses for a second degree murder charge are the same defenses for a first degree charge.

Retain a Murder Criminal Defense Attorney in Chicago

Depending on the circumstances, an experienced criminal defense attorney might be able to have your charges reduced allowing you to elude penalties that are more serious. Using knowledgeable strategic analysis, David Freidberg will be your advocate in court if you are faced with a charge of murder.

If you are suspected of murder, call (312) 560-7100 or schedule your free consultation to start building your case.

(image courtesy of tertia-van-rensburg)

Contact Information