homicide (hŏm´əsīd), in law, the taking of human life. Homicides that are neither justifiable nor excusable are considered crimes. A criminal homicide committed with malice is known as murder, otherwise it is called manslaughter. A homicide is excusable if it is the result of an accident that occurred during a lawful act and that did not amount to criminal negligence. Justifiable homicides are intentional killings done in accordance with legal obligation, or in circumstances where the law recognizes no wrong. They include the execution of criminals in some states, killings necessary to prevent a felony or to arrest a suspected felon, and killings in self-defense. In some states of the United States, one may lawfully kill in resisting the unlawful invasion of a home or real property. Many states make a distinction between first and second degree murders. First degree murder is a homicide committed with deliberately premeditated malice, or with extreme and wanton malice. The conviction for first degree murder often carries a sentence of life imprisonment; in some states it can be punished by execution. Second degree murder is a lesser crime, in which a homicide is committed with malice but without deliberation or premeditation.

See B. L. Danto, The Human Side of Homicide (1982); J. M. Macdonald, The Murderer and His Victim (1986).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Homicide: Selected full-text books and articles

Murder 101: Homicide and Its Investigation
Robert L. Snow.
Praeger, 2005
Judging Evil: Rethinking the Law of Murder and Manslaughter
Samuel H. Pillsbury.
New York University Press, 1998
Serial Murder: Multi-Disciplinary Perspectives for Investigators
National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime.
United States. Federal Bureau of Investigation. National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime (U.S.). Beharioral Analysis Unit-2, 2005
Homicide by the Rich and Famous: A Century of Prominent Killers
Gini Graham Scott.
Praeger, 2005
Homicidal Insanity, 1800-1985
Janet Colaizzi.
University of Alabama Press, 1989
The Ethics of Homicide
Philip E. Devine.
University of Notre Dame Press, 1990
Murder in New York City
Eric H. Monkkonen.
University of California Press, 2001
After Homicide: Practical and Political Responses to Bereavement
Paul E. Rock.
Clarendon Press, 1998
Blind-Sided: Homicide Where It Is Least Expected
Gregory K. Moffatt.
Praeger Publishers, 2000
Sexual Murder: Catathymic and Compulsive Homicides
Louis B. Schlesinger.
CRC Press, 2004
New Arenas for Violence: Homicide in the American Workplace
Michael D. Kelleher.
Praeger, 1996
Profiles in Murder: An FBI Legend Dissects Killers and Their Crimes
Russell Vorpagel; Joseph Harrington.
Perseus Publishing, 1998
Rethinking Criminal Law
George P. Fletcher.
Oxford University Press, 2000
Looking for a topic idea? Use Questia's Topic Generator


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.