Maryland has several classifications of homicide, depending on the suspect’s mindset. The classifications range from the most serious – first-degree, premeditated murder – to forms of manslaughter in which no malice is present.
Second-degree murder is just below first-degree murder and generally holds that there was no premeditation. Second-degree murder, in Maryland, carries a sentence of up to 30 years in prison, said Steven Kupferberg, a Maryland criminal defense attorney.
There are different forms of second-degree murder. Baltimore Police Officer Caesar R. Goodson Jr. was charged Friday with second-degree depraved-heart murder in the death of Freddie Gray, who died in police custody. “Depraved-heart” second-degree murder holds that the suspect held a reckless disregard for another person’s life.
Put another way, “It is a deliberate act that is so dangerous that it shows total indifference to someone else’s life,” said David Moyse, also a Maryland defense attorney.
If a depraved heart homicide cases that go to trial, jurors are given specific instructions on what it takes to form a conviction. An example of those instructions follow:
Second-Degree Depraved Heart Murder.
Second-degree murder is the killing of another person while acting with an extreme disregard for human life. In order to convict the defendant of second-degree murder, the State must prove:
(1) that the defendant caused the death of (name);
(2) that the defendant's conduct created a very high risk to the life of (name); and
(3) that the defendant, conscious of such risk, acted with extreme disregard of the life-endangering consequences.