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My question is a hypothetical one. I was conducting some research into the differences between murder, homicide and manslaughter and I didn't understand the difference between homicide and manslaughter. Let's say there are two friends walking down a busy street, teasing each other. One of them playfully pushes the other who falls into the oncoming traffic. That person doesn't make it. Will the friend who pushed be charged with manslaughter or homicide, if he were to be charged at all?

  • Which country/jurisdiction? – Greendrake Apr 28 at 14:51
  • Let's say that it happened in Canada. – Saphire Apr 28 at 14:52
  • en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murder_(Canadian_law) seems like a good starting point. Ultimately it is up to a court to decide whether the definition applies to any particular set of facts. – Nate Eldredge Apr 28 at 15:07
  • @NateEldredge but isn't the question actually asking what these definitions happen to be rather than whether they apply to this situation? The hypothetical created here sounds like it is there just for the purposes of an illustration how the definitions may apply rather than an advice on whether they would apply. – grovkin Apr 28 at 15:21
  • @grovkin: Well, the Wikipedia article gives the statutory definition. An answer could discuss how the facts of the hypothetical might be considered in applying the definition - all I'm saying is that the answer may be somewhat subjective, and the asker shouldn't expect the law to state definitively what would happen in a particular case. – Nate Eldredge Apr 28 at 15:30
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Under Canadian law, causing the death of human being is homicide. If the homicide is "culpable", it is an offense (crime). In the described scenario, it might be culpable homicide if the death was due to "criminal negligence". That would be the case if in doing a thing, the person "shows wanton or reckless disregard for the lives or safety of other persons".

We've now reached the end of what statutory law has to say about the question. Court cases take us a bit further in understanding criminal negligence. The wisdom of the courts is distilled to ts essence in jury instructions, which say

The Crown must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused's conduct showed a marked departure from the conduct of a reasonable person in the circumstances; and that a reasonable person in the same circumstances would have foreseen that this conduct posed a risk of bodily harm.

R. v. Tutton is an example: the court finds that

The phrase "wanton or reckless disregard for the lives or safety of other persons" signifies more than gross negligence in the objective sense. It requires some degree of awareness or advertence to the threat to the lives or safety of others or alternatively a wilful blindness to that threat which is culpable in light of the gravity of the risk assumed.

Ultimately, though, the fact-finder must evaluate the behavior against a highly subjective standard as to "what a reasonable man would do". I cannot imagine a scenario where shoving a person realistically could lead to them falling into traffic and getting killed but there the shoving was ordinary horseplay. Pushing a person in the direction of oncoming traffic is abnormal behavior that shows shocking disregard for the probable harm caused to another. But perhaps there is some innocent scenario where this was really just a tragic outcome. So the answer is, it could be culpable homicide, or not, depending on the facts.

To be classed as murder (rather than manslaughter) the person has to intend to cause death (§229), which is missing from this scenario.

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The murder is the unlawful premeditated killing of one human being by another. Thus, there is essentially the malice aforethought whereas manslaughter is unlawful killing of another essentially without malice aforethought.

Murder differs from voluntary manslaughter in that the latter’s perpetrator had no prior intent to kill the victim, and probably acted in the heat of passion. Sides that its just voluntary or some other type of manslaghter, if its an accident.

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