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1st Degree Murder Charges and Punishment

    First degree murder is generally defined as murder that is intentional or deliberate or that takes place during certain other crimes. It is generally punishable by a sentence of 25 years to life imprisonment with the possibility of release from prison on parole. However, a conviction for first degree murder results in a sentence of death or life imprisonment without the possibility of parole if the prosecutor charges and the court finds that one or more "special circumstances" specified in state law apply to the crime.
    One such special circumstance involves cases in which the murderer    intentionally killed the victim "while lying in wait." The courts have generally interpreted this provision to mean that, in order to qualify as a special circumstance, a murder must have occurred immediately upon a confrontation between the murderer and the victim. The courts have generally interpreted this provision to rule out a finding of a special circumstance if the defendant waited for the victim, captured the victim, transported the victim to another location, and then committed the murder.
    A special circumstance can also be charged and found if one of a list of specific felonies, including arson and kidnapping, occurred during the commission of a first degree murder. However, the courts have determined that a special circumstance can be found in such a case only when the criminal's primary goal was to commit arson or kidnapping and only later a murder was committed to further the arson or kidnapping. The courts determined that a special circumstance could not be found in a case in which the criminal's primary goal
was to kill rather than to commit arson or kidnapping.

The Law
    190. (a) Every person guilty of murder in the first degree shall be punished by death, imprisonment in the state prison for life without
the possibility of parole, or imprisonment in the state prison for a term of 25 years to life. The penalty to be applied shall be determined as provided in Sections 190.1, 190.2, 190.3, 190.4, and 190.5. (the law goes on....)