A convicted murderer is an individual tried in a court and found guilty of violating criminal law by killing someone, according to Cornell University Law School. Sentencing of a murder convict is state-specific, based on mitigating factors in the case and elements of the crime, reports FindLaw.
Courts classify the crime into first-, second- and third-degree murder, with each having a different sentence. First-degree murders are intentional and premeditated. An individual who kills a victim accidentally after planning to kill someone else may face conviction for first-degree murder. Second-degree murder involves intent but lacks premeditation, states FindLaw. The definition of third-degree murder varies by state but generally involves the unintentional killing of a person after initially intending to harm him physically, according to USLegal.
Sometimes, statutory guidelines outline the sentences that convicted felons should receive based on the facts in the case. There are two possible convictions for first-degree murder: life imprisonment or death. Some states such as California have tiered systems for sentencing convicts that include a range of years in jail and life in prison without parole. The severity of a first-degree murder conviction often depends on various aggravating factors that include the use of torture or explosive materials in the killing, the defendant’s prior murder conviction, or killing in the event of a violent crime, as FindLaw explains.