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Gulfport teen faces manslaughter charge

Teenagers face manslaughter charges after fatally shooting his little brother in the stomach. The 16-year-old was arrested and charged as an adult with one count of manslaughter. He allegedly attempted to scare his 6-year-old brother, while the child was sitting on top of a washing machine playing a video game. When the gun failed to go off, he pulled the trigger again, firing the fatal shot.

Police do not suspect there was a dispute between the brothers. Therefore, the shooter was charged with manslaughter. Had there been a dispute or some form of intent, the teen would have been charged with murder.

While both murder and manslaughter are considered a felony, this distinction has an enormous impact on sentencing. Convictions for manslaughter may result in imprisonment in county jail for one year, whereas conviction for murder may result in the death penalty.

In Mississippi, murder is defined as causing another person's death with premeditation, while committing an eminently dangerous act with reckless disregard for human life or while committing or attempting to commit a felony. Conviction for murder may result in a sentence of life imprisonment with or without parole.

Capital murder is the most violent and egregious form of homicide and includes circumstances, such as the killing of a peace officer or fireman, while they are on the job, the killing of a person while serving a life sentence, by detonating a bomb or explosive device, to receive monetary gain or while committing certain violent felonies such as rape, kidnapping or burglary. Conviction for capital murder may result in a sentence of life imprisonment with or without parole or a sentence of the death penalty.

Manslaughter does not require premeditation. It is unplanned and without intent to kill. Because of this lack of mens rea, penalties for this crime are reduced. The Gulfport teen's criminal defense is therefore premised on the assertion that he did not plan or intend to kill his little brother, therefore his actions constitute the lesser charge of manslaughter. If convicted, he may face a punishment of up to 20 years imprisonment.

Source: People.com, "Mississippi Teen Accused of Fatally Shooting 6-Year-Old Brother While He Played Video Game," Elaine Aradillas, Aug. 10, 2017

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