second degree murder

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Definition 

Second degree murder is a type of murder that has a punishment which is less severe than that for first degree murder.

Overview

Exact distinctions between first degree and second degree murder vary by state. One critical difference is that capital punishment is typically not available for a second degree murder conviction.  

Typically, second-degree murder is defined as murder that is not premeditated, or murder that is caused by the offender's reckless conduct that displays an obvious lack of concern for human life. 

Further Reading

For more on second degree murder, see this Marquette Law Review article, this University of Wyoming Law Review article, and this University of Pennsylvania Law Review article