(February 6, 2023) Andre McDonald was found guilty of manslaughter by a San Antonio jury on Friday, February 3, for killing his wife back in 2019. It was not an easy conviction – the jury was deadlocked for quite some time over whether or not he should be convicted of murder or manslaughter. How does Texas law define murder v. manslaughter, and what are the legal implications of a manslaughter charge?
Murder v. Manslaughter in Texas
Murder and manslaughter both result in the death of an individual, and both also usually result in a prison sentence for the perpetrator. However, there are significant legal differences between a manslaughter charge and a murder charge in a Texas court.
Under Texas Penal Code, a person commits murder when the death of their victim was the result of
- Intentionally or knowingly causes the death of an individual;
- Intends to cause physical injury and commits an act that is obviously dangerous to human life, which results in the victim’s death or;
- Commits or attempts to commit an act that is clearly dangerous to human life while perpetrating another felony other than manslaughter or while fleeing the scene of another felony, which results in the victim’s death.
The main takeaway here is malice, or a clear intent from the perpetrator to kill their victim. It can be premeditated, which is 1st-degree murder, or it can happen in the spur of the moment, which is 2nd-degree murder, but it always includes the intent to kill from the perpetrator.
The Texas Penal Code describes manslaughter as recklessly causing the death of an individual. Manslaughter is usually grouped into two main categories.
- Voluntary manslaughter – voluntary manslaughter occurs when an individual kills another in a “heat of passion” but without the premeditation that would classify such an act as murder. A commonly used example is if a husband were to return home and find his wife committing adultery and become so enraged that he killed the man he found with his wife. That is emotional distress that would cause a reasonable person to commit such a crime and is therefore not seen as so morally condemning.
- Involuntary manslaughter – involuntary manslaughter occurs when the careless actions of an individual cause the death of another individual. There is no premeditation and no intent to kill in this kind of charge. Vehicular manslaughter is a type of involuntary manslaughter that occurs as a result of the grossly negligent actions of a careless driver.
The key takeaway here is premeditation. Manslaughter can be voluntary and intentional, or it can be the result of a terrible accident, but it is never a premeditated act.
The Importance of a Criminal Defense Attorney
You can probably see why the jury in the McDonald case had a difficult time determining whether or not to convict him of murder or manslaughter. It can often be challenging to prove involuntary manslaughter over 2nd-degree murder. After all, accidentally killing someone through extremely reckless actions could technically constitute committing an act that is obviously dangerous to human life. This is why it is so important that individuals facing manslaughter charges in San Antonio hire experienced criminal defense attorneys like the lawyers at the Carabin Shaw Law Firm.
Facing a Manslaughter Charge?
If you or a loved one is facing a vehicular manslaughter charge in San Antonio, contact our experienced criminal defense attorneys today. We have 30 years of expertise and the resources needed to represent your case. Contact our team for a free consultation today at 800-862-1260. We look forward to serving you.