Murder & Manslaughter


The term homicide refers the death of a human being due to the actions of another human being. While not all homicides are criminal in nature, both murder and manslaughter fall under the umbrella of homicide.


Murder is among the most serious criminal charges that an individual can be faced with. Penalties and jail time can be severe, and, in Oklahoma, certain types of murder charges leave a defendant open to the possibility of receiving the death penalty. In Oklahoma, there are multiple types murder charges ranging from first-degree murder to justifiable or excusable murder. If you or someone you know has been charged with murder, it is important to seek legal counsel as early into the process as possible because these charges are generally aggressively prosecuted. Likewise, it is equally important to retain legal counsel that is willing and able to defend you all the way through a jury trial. Overman Legal Group’s skilled criminal defense team are experienced and have a history of success in acquitting individuals charged will all types of murder.

First-Degree Murder

Murder in the first degree is the charge associated with the harshest penalties, including the possibility of the death penalty. Generally, in order to be found guilty of first-degree murder, the state must show that the murder was committed with “malice aforethought,” meaning that the murder was carried out with planning and a clear intention to take the life of another human being. Similarly, there are a few other circumstances in which a prosecutor has the possibility of bringing the charge of first-degree murder, including:

  • Causing the death of another individual while in the commission of certain violent felonies
  • Causing the death of a child due to malicious abuse
  • Causing the death of an on-duty law enforcement officer.

The punishment for first-degree murder include the death penalty or life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. 

For additional information, see OK ST T. 21 § 701.7.

Second-Degree Murder

Second-degree murder is a lesser murder charge and is notably different from first-degree murder in that in order to be found guilty of second-degree murder an individual need not have planned the killing in advance with “malice aforethought.” Rather, second-degree murder entails the causing the death of another while acting in a reckless way that is “imminently dangerous” to human life. For example, firing a weapon into a crowd of people, but without any intent to kill anyone. Similarly to first-degree murder, second-degree murder charges may be brought against you if you cause the death of another during the commission of a felony. For example, a robbery gone bad. The punishment for second-degree murder is no less than ten (10) years in prison.

For additional information, see OK ST T. 21 § 701.8.


Like murder, manslaughter can be charged in either the first or second degree. For first-degree manslaughter, the most common type of this charge stems from a death that was caused in a “cruel or unusual manner” while in “the heat of passion” and not requiring any preparation or intent to kill. Another form of first-degree manslaughter involves causing the unnecessary death of another person while attempting to prevent that person from committing a crime. Deaths caused during the commission of certain misdemeanors may also carry a charge of first-degree manslaughter. First degree manslaughter carries a minimum punishment of four (4) years in prison with a maximum of life.

Second-degree manslaughter is a statutory catch-all for any killing that results from a specific act or negligence and which is not already characterized by murder, first-degree manslaughter or justifiable/excusable homicide. Generally, these types of charges are brought when someone negligently causes a homicide but not in a cruel or unusual way. One example of second-degree manslaughter is negligently allowing an animal that you own to kill another human. Second-degree manslaughter can carry a punishment which may include two to four (2-4) years in prison.

For more information, see OK ST T. 21 § 711, OK ST T. 21 § 712, OK ST T. 21 § 717.

Excusable or Justifiable Homicide Including Self-Defense

Excusable homicide is not a crime and occurs when a death is caused accidentally and with no ill-intent.

Likewise, justifiable homicide is not a crime and describes killings done in the name of self-defense, to prevent the death or serious injury to another, and necessary killings committed by law enforcement officers. Oklahoma recently passed what has become known as a Stand Your Ground statue recognizing that “that the citizens of the State of Oklahoma have a right to expect absolute safety within their own homes, places of business or places of worship.” Moreover, Oklahoma now presumes that you have a reasonable fear of death or serious injury when someone is unlawfully and forcefully attempts to enter your home, place of business or place of worship.

For more information, see OK ST T. 21 § 731, OK ST T. 21 § 733, OK ST T. 21 § 1289.25.