A TV show reported a case where a man killed two teenagers and was convicted of both two counts of first degree murder and two counts of second degree murder.

Is this possible? I know that you can be accused of both first degree and second degree murder for killing the same person, but I thought the jury would have to pick the strongest accusation that they believe is proven beyond reasonable doubt (or declare the accused not guilty), so for each killing the outcome would be exactly one of "first degree murder", "second degree murder", and "not guilty" – not a double conviction for the same crime.


2 Answers 2


Ordinarily, you can be convicted of more than one crime for the same actions, but the sentences are served concurrently, rather than consecutively.

So, for example, if the first degree murder but not the second degree murder charges were reversed on appeal (e.g. because the first degree murder charges were for "felony murder" and the appellate court found that the evidence showing the related felony should have been suppressed at trial due to an unlawful search), the second degree murder charges would remain in place.

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    Makes perfect sense that way. So the murderer gets two convictions but only one punishment. Seems fair enough.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Feb 18, 2018 at 17:11
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    @gnasher729 A related concept which could lead to the confusion is that a court is often required to give a jury the option of convicting someone of a lesser included offense if attorneys for the defense request it. So, even if the prosecutor brings only first degree murder charges, the defense can insist that the jury be given the option of considering second degree murder and manslaughter charges as well. So, if the jury is convinced a serious crime has been committed, but not convinced that the charge brought by the prosecutor is supported by the evidence, they don't have to acquit.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Feb 19, 2018 at 15:44

The laws on this are going to vary by state. According to Wisconsin law 936.66, "Upon prosecution for a crime, the actor may be convicted of either the crime charged or an included crime, but not both."

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