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Homicide is the taking of a person's life. This includes justifiable homicide and state-sanctioned executions as well as murder. In cases of self-defense or when states hold executions, these are viewed as homicides but are not considered illegal killings. (The cause of death on the death certificate of a person executed in California is listed as “homicide.”)

A murder, which is a form of homicide, requires an illegal taking of another's life. Each state within the United States has very specific criteria for defining murder. From a judicial point of view, the most serious murders are capital cases. Such cases may qualify a person, if convicted, for a death sentence. However, most persons convicted of first-degree murder find their way into lengthy prison terms. First-degree murder ...

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