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When Is a Death Considered ‘Murder?’

Two recent cases have emphasized the breadth of the legal definition. Patch wants to know what the word means to you.

When Is a Death Considered ‘Murder?’

“Murder” and “homicide” are loaded words that conjure images of malice and deliberate violence.

This month, though, the west metro has been reminded that that’s not always the case.

At the beginning of February, prosecutors charged Jonathan Markle with criminal vehicular homicide in connection with the drowning of his 9-month-old daughter. Prosecutors say Markle's blood alcohol level was .13 when his vehicle broke through the ice Jan. 18 after he tried to drive underneath the Halstead Bay Bridge on Lake Minnetonka.

Hennepin County Mike Freeman acknowledged that the legal system has "no penalty that can approach the grief and agony this man might feel by the death of his daughter at his own hand." But Freeman went on to say he wants this case to illustrate that "this conduct is simply not acceptable."

Then on Thursday, prosecutors charged 31-year-old Devon McFerrin with third-degree murder stemming from the heroin overdose of a Hopkins man. Investigators say McFerrin sold the man the heroin that killed him.

The law has specific requirements for what constitutes murder and homicide—but these don’t always match common usage.

Patch wants to know what you think of when you hear those words. When does a death cross the line from accidental to homicide or murder? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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