Reform to Add ‘Second Degree Murder’ Charge

A proposed legal reform would add a charge for non-premeditated murder, putting killers behind bars for longer.

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Maayana Miskin,

Suspect in court (file)
Suspect in court (file)
Flash 90

A proposed legal reform aims to put more killers behind bars for longer by adding a charge similar to the “second degree murder” charge used in the United States. Currently, Israeli law splits acts of taking a human life into just three categories: premeditated murder, manslaughter, and causing death through negligence.

Cases in which a victim was killed during a sustained violent attack are often tried as manslaughter cases due to the impossibility of proving that the attacker intended to cause death and not just injury. One such case was the notorious Karp murder, in which 59-year-old Arik Karp was beaten to death by a group of drunk Arab-Israeli men. The killers were convicted in 2011 of manslaughter, rather than murder, in a ruling that aroused much criticism.

The proposed changes, published in Maariv/nrg, would add a charge for cases in which it cannot be proven that a person intended to commit murder, but “the attacker was indifferent to the possible result” of the attack. The charge would be considered less severe than the current murder charge, but more serious than manslaughter.

The maximum sentence would be life in prison, in place of the 20 year maximum for manslaughter.

The reform would also add to the list of “aggravating circumstances” expected to lead to a more severe sentence. Among the factors to be added would be terrorism, murder of a defenseless victim, and murder for the sake of “family honor.”

In addition, the reform would create three categories of manslaughter, one of which would be so-called “mercy killing” in which the victim asked to die. The maximum punishment for killing someone who asked to die would be five years in place of the current 20.