He was transported back to California to face a murder trial and was found guilty of second-degree murder and sentenced to 16 years in federal prison. His conviction was subsequently overturned, based on the arguments that the victim, Tempongko, somehow incited Ramirez to murder her by revealing that she had aborted his child. The Supreme Court in California heard arguments from both sides with the prosecutors hoping to get the judges to reinstate the jury’s original verdict of second-degree murder.

Another murder case that is still ongoing in Pomona, California involves Tomas Infante who is suspected of killing his wife, Charito Tolentino. The case is at its inception but some facts have already surfaced. He is accused of killing his wife at their home in West Covina then placing her body inside her vehicle and abandoning that car 20 miles away at Hawaiian Gardens Casino parking lot. He is being represented by a Public Defender.

Many have inquired as to the difference between first-degree and second-degree murder in California. Penal Code, 187(a), defines murder as “the unlawful killing of a human being or a fetus with malice aforethought.” What distinguishes murder or manslaughter (which second-degree is often known as), is the presence of malice aforethought.

In its simplest definition, express malice means that you specifically intended to kill the victim. Malice is implied when, the killing resulted from an intentional act, a natural consequence of the act is dangerous to human life or the act was deliberately performed with knowledge of the danger to, and with conscious disregard, for human life.

Under California law, capital murder, also known as murder with special circumstances. This refers to first-degree murder that is punishable by capital punishment (death penalty) or a state prison sentence for life with the possibility of parole (LWOP). Penal Code Section 190.2 specifically enumerates the 20 different situations. Some like murdering a police officer, firefighter, prosecutor, judge, juror or elected official, murdering another for financial gain, murdering more than 1 victim, murdering another because of his race, color, religion, nationality or country of origin.

Unlike first-degree murder, second-degree murder is willful but is not deliberate and premeditated. Some examples of second-degree would be shooting a gun in a crowd and killing someone or a convicted DUI offender getting in an accident and killing someone.

What is the felony-murder rule? This applies to both first and second-degree. It creates a murder liability for individual and their accomplices who kill a person(s) while committing a dangerous felony such as robbery, arson, burglary, carjacking, rape.

General defenses to murder are self-defense/defense of others, the insanity defense, false and coerced confessions, evidence seized are a result of an illegal search or seizure, mistaken identity.

The primary difference between first and second-degree murder is the factual and legal question of the presence of “malice aforethought.” Was there premeditation or planning? Other defenses not listed above could be examined as well, so it is critically important that a thorough and extensive investigation be completed.

CategoryCriminal Law