What is a malice murder?

In the common law, malice murder describes murder committed with malice. Duh, right? But there are some things to know.

Malice means intent to kill.
Therefore: Any murder committed with the intent to kill is malice murder, BUT the common law recognizes 2 types of malice:
Express malice: The perpetrator actually had the intent to kill
Inferred malice: The perpetrator didn't have the intent to kill, but he caused a death in such a way that he is just as bad as the perpetrator who does intend to kill.] Inferred malice can happen in three ways:
  1. causing a death with extreme recklessness
  2. causing a death with the intent to cause serious bodily injury
  3. caused the death of a person, on purpose or inadvertently, while committing a particular felony (this is called felony murder and does not exist in every state)

Confused yet? :) Remember:
Malice (express or implied) = intent to kill
Murder committed with the intent to kill is malice murder
So any murder committed with express or implied malice is malice murder.


Express malice is easy.
Example: A gal who means to kill someone is guilty of express malice [intent-to-kill] murder because she intended to kill her victim.

It's implied malice that's tricky.
Example: A drunk guy who rides a unicycle backwards into a crowded wedding tent while waving a can of gasoline in one hand and a flaming torch in another may not mean to kill anyone, but his behavior is so extremely reckless that he is as guilty as the gal who kills someone on purpose. That is, he is guilty of inferred malice [also intent-to-kill] murder.