This is a literature review on first-degree murder in the United States and Saudi Arabia. It is important to note that the intention of the whole project, as one may deduce from this literature review, is not to demonstrate that any country’s capital punishment system is any better or worse than the other. Instead, the objective is to demonstrate how these two systems differ in terms of the main guiding principles (deterrence for US and retribution for Saudi Arabia); the criteria for first-degree murder; the trial process, among others. This is a literature review on first-degree murder in the United States and Saudi Arabia. It is important to note that the intention of the whole project, as one may deduce from this literature review, is not to demonstrate that any country’s capital punishment system is any better or worse than the other. Instead, the objective is to demonstrate how these two systems differ in terms of the main guiding principles (deterrence for US and retribution for Saudi Arabia); the criteria for first-degree murder; the trial process, among others.
First Degree Murder in United States
First Degree Murder is the unlawful killing of a person that is willful and premeditated (Israel, 1967). Most states in the legal concept follow this as “felony murder rule” in cases wherein a person committed the first degree murder if death is resulted from the commission of another violent crime such as:
5. Robbery ( Florida First Degree Murder Laws, 2014).
Under the sec. 316 of Michigan Penal Code (Israel, 1967; Michigan Legislative Website 2009), first-degree murder consists of the following:
(1) A person who commits any of the following is guilty of first degree murder and shall be punished by imprisonment for life:
(a) Murder perpetrated by means of poison, lying in wait, or any other willful, deliberate, and premeditated killing.
(b) Murder committed in the perpetration of, or attempt to perpetrate, arson, criminal sexual conduct in the first, second, or third degree, child abuse in the first degree, a major controlled substance offense, robbery, carjacking, breaking and entering of a dwelling, home invasion in the first or second degree, larceny of any kind, extortion, kidnapping, vulnerable adult abuse in the first or second degree under section 145n, torture under section 85, or aggravated stalking under section 411i.
(c) A murder of a peace officer or a corrections officer committed while the peace officer or corrections officer is lawfully engaged in the performance of any of his or her duties as a peace officer or corrections officer, knowing that the peace officer or corrections officer is a peace officer or corrections officer engaged in the performance of his or her duty as a peace officer or corrections officer.
(2) As used in this section:
(a) “Arson” means a felony violation of chapter X.
b) “Corrections officer” means any of the following:
(i) A prison or jail guard or other prison or jail personnel.
(ii) Any of the personnel of a boot camp, special alternative incarceration unit, or other minimum-security correctional facility.
(iii) A parole or probation officer.
(c) “Major controlled substance offense” means any of( the following:
(i) A violation of section 7401(2)(a)(i) to (iii) of the public health code, 1978 PA 368, MCL 333.7401.
(ii) A violation of section 7403(2)(a)(i) to (iii) of the public health code, 1978 PA 368, MCL 333.7403.
(iii) A conspiracy to commit an offense listed in subparagraph (i) or (ii).
(d) “Peace officer” means any of the following:
(i) A police or conservation officer of this state or a political subdivision of this state.
(ii) A police or conservation officer of the United States.
(iii) A police or conservation officer of another state or a political subdivision of another state (First Degree Murder: Penalty, Definitions, and September 2, 2013)
The first-degree murder is the most serious of the homicide charges available under the Florida Law. It includes premeditated killings, felony murders, and murders committed during specified drug dealing offenses. This refers to the controlled substances like cocaine and opium. This is viewed when the victim died because of drug overdose. At this instance, the dealer or distributor the drug shall be charged with first-degree murder. The element of intent to kills is the most essential element to convict an accused of this crime. For a charge of first-degree murder based on a premeditated killing, the prosecutor must show the defendant’s specific intent to kill. In order to establish premeditation, the prosecutor may need to present evidence about the defendant’s activities or steps taken to prepare for the killing. State laws qualified homicide as a first-degree murder in the following felonies:
2. Home-invasion robbery
4. Sexual battery, and
5. Many other offenses, including the murder of another person (Florida First Degree Murder Laws, 2014)
However, in the following specific types of killings as first degree, the typical elements as mentioned above is not required in the following cases:
1. Killing of a child by use of unreasonable force
2. Certain kills committed in a pattern of domestic abuse
3. The murder of law enforcement officer, and
4. Homicides occurring in the commission of the crime as stated above (Florida First Degree Murder Laws, 2014)
Penalties and charges. In most States, the punishment for first-degree murder is death penalty or life imprisonment without the benefit of parole (First Degree Murder Penalties and Sentencing, 2014). The imposition of the crime depends on the attendance of the aggravating circumstances that is present to the crime as charged. In first degree murder, the most common aggravating factors include: (1) The defendant had one or more previous murder convictions; (2) The killing occurred during commission of any of the listed crime (i.e. arson, rape or robbery); (3) The victim was a law enforcement officer performing his or her duties; (4) The victim was a judge, prosecutor, witness or juror killed to prevent the performance of their duties; (5) Killing was particularly heinous or involved torture; (6) The defendant laid in wait; (7) The killing involved bombs or explosive materials, and (8) the defendant was an active gang member and victim was killed as part of the gang activity.
Death penalty is imposed as an option for those felons who were convicted of their highest level of murder offense. States differs on the high level murders as prosecuted in Courts. In Texas, the highest level of murder charge is “capital murder” while in California; it is “aggravated first degree murder” (First Degree Murder Penalties and Sentencing, 2014).
A life imprisonment without possibility of parole is imposed as follows:
1. In States which do not impose death penalty, and
2. In the States here death penalty is imposable but the prosecution does not seek or the prosecution failed to convince the Court to impose death penalty.
Lastly, lesser penalties/sentences of imprisonment is applicable with the eventual possibility of parole depending the on the States. State varies on the imposition of this lesser penalty. Example, the New York may impose only from 20 to 25 years of imprisonment whereas in California it is 25 years of imprisonment.
Murder and Capital Punishment in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia has one of the highest rates of individuals that are punished through death as a capital punishment. One of the offenses, whose result is capital punishment, is murder. The capital punishment in Saudi Arabia is being killed, and it is applicable even to individuals that are not over eighteen years of age. In 2003, alone, there were over 210 detainees who were in custody because of having committed murder. 40 of these individuals were boys under the age of 16; but this is not deterrence to the government’s capital offence penalty. Murder is punishable through capital punishment which is death by hanging. According to Islam, people that kill should also be punished through death. The penalty for witchcraft is death. Most of the individuals that are charges with this offense are foreigner’s especially domestic workers (Hodgkinson, 2014). Unfortunately, most of these foreigners are not aware of what might be considered as witchcraft by their hosts/ employers in the country, and they are also unaware of the punishment that they might suffer for it. A lot of complaints have also been forwarded to Saudi authorities of how employers make counter charges against their employees after having committed offenses such as sexual harassment or abuse, and failure to pay wages/ salaries. The employers then make complaints of witchcraft since they know that it holds a death penalty and they are able to do away with their problem for good.
There are no codes which are related to the law in regards to capital punishment. The capital punishment is derived from the religious laws that are used in the country; namely: Islamic law. In Saudi Arabia, drug smuggling is also punishable through death. Individuals that are found guilty of drug smuggling are punished through death. According to Human Rights Watch (2008), the use of death as the capital punishment for the nationals of a country should only be used for serious cases, but in Saudi Arabia, the punishment is used for a wide range of crimes, and the result is that a high number of individuals are punished and die as a result. Most of the crimes through which capital punishment is prescribed as the course of action have resulted in the death of other innocent individuals such as robbery with violence, drug smuggling of “hard” illegal drugs and sorcery. However, the country has been severely criticized as ‘overusing” death as a form of capital punishment even for crimes that could have been deterred using other means. The Saudi Arabian government cites that the death penalty is necessary so that it can serve as an example to other individuals that might be thinking of committing the same type of crime.
Terrorism that results in the death of a person (s is also treated as murder and it is therefore punished through death. Unfortunately, there are high rates of terrorism in the Middle Eastern region in comparison to other nations in the world. This situation is attributed to the high number of Islamist extremist groups that have been born and brought up in the area.
Individuals that are guilty of committing adultery are also subject to death. One of the most common recommended means of achieving the prescribed punishment is through stoning, or lashing. Individuals that are guilty of apostasy are also liable for death. Apostasy is referred to as the situation of changing religion and turning away from Islam.
Hodgkinson, P. (2014). Capital Punishment: New Perspectives. New York: Ashgate
Human Rights Watch. (2008). Adults before their Time: Children in Saudi Arabia’s. New