The media has recently dedicated a lot of attention to the June 19, 2014 death of a 22-month-old toddler in Georgia after being left for 7 hours in a car in the heat of the day. The father claimed that he had simply forgotten that his son was in the car when he had come in for work that day, and only remembered when he was on his way to meet friends after work. The man is being charged with murder and 2nd degree child cruelty.
Under Georgia law, murder is when there is malice aforethought. There is no distinction between an intent to kill (first degree murder) and reckless disregard (second degree murder); when a person is killed without provocation, it is murder. When the death was accidental, it is manslaughter, which is a less serious crime. The fact that the father in the aforementioned case was charged with murder suggests that the police believe that the child had been deliberately left to die and that it was not accidental.
It can be difficult to fully understand the difference between a charge of murder and manslaughter, especially in a case like this. Basically, it boils down to the intent of the actor that brought about the death of an individual. Was there intent to bring about the death of that person, or was it a true accident?
This is the current debate among media people who are speculating on the case. But a case like this is seldom cut and dry, and while the evidence so far appears to point towards deliberate child murder, there seems to be no motive for it. According to reports, the family appeared to be a normal one, with no apparent incidents of child abuse or neglect.
There is a good case to be made for either side, something that a competent criminal defense lawyer will use to bring about conviction for the lesser charge of manslaughter. Depending on how the case goes, it is possible for a manslaughter conviction to result in a suspended sentence, so it is in the best interest of a defendant in a murder charge to retain an experienced and smart criminal defense lawyer.