Murder most foul, as in the best it is. --Shakespeare
The term homicide encompasses every type of unlawful killing and is generally divided into two specific categories of criminal conduct: murder and manslaughter. These categories of criminal conduct will be explored in this chapter.
At common law, murder was considered one of the most heinous offenses and, as such, was punishable by death. Murder is broadly defined as an "unlawful killing with malice aforethought." Historically, this meant that the unlawful killing was performed with an evil, wicked motive or intent or performed as a deliberate, cruel act without provocation. However, as the law gradually evolved, the term malice aforethought shifted away from its common law meaning and came to embrace four mental states that would transform an unlawful killing into murder. The four mental states are intent to kill, intent to do serious bodily harm, extreme reckless disregard and felony murder. Thus, an unlawful killing is performed with "malice" aforethought" (often referred to as simply "malice" in most statutes) if the defendant causes a death while acting with one of these four mental states.