Being tried on two charges for the same crime

This question comes out of the movie “The Judge” but is a factual question, not an entertainment question.

The character was being tried for killing someone with his car. They gave two verdicts: One for first-degree murder, and the “included charge of” voluntary manslaughter.

Both charges were for the same act. I have heard of multiple charges for the series of actions (like multiple counts of murder at the same scene), but don’t understand the concept of more than one charge for the same act. It doesn’t seem you could be found guilty of both.

Is it common or even possible to try on two charges and let the jury decide which one sticks?

Lesser included offenses. maybe I’m misreading it, but as far as I can tell LIO means a jury can convict on a lesser charge in certain cases, but certainly not both.

I guess this would be yet another case where Hollywood doesn’t understand reality.

To be clear, the verdict was not guilty for first-degree murder and guilty for manslaughter. I didn’t mean to imply he was found guilty of both.My real question was whether they leave it to the jury to decide which charge to convict on.

In looking over definitions, it does not seem to me that voluntary manslaughter is a proper LIO of first-degree murder. It would seem that it has to be one or the other.

That is exactly and entirely the function of a jury. Nothing more and nothing less.

Their whole job is to listen to the facts (testimony + evidence), listen to the law (jury instructions from the judge), then apply the facts as they believe them to the law as they understand it.

With the end result being a decision of “guilty” or “not guilty” for each separate charge.

The concept of “lesser included offense” simply means it’s a non sequitur to find “guilty” of the larger charge (murder one in your example) but “not guilty” in the lesser one. The larger includes (and supercedes) the smaller.

It’s very common for prosecutors to stack charges like this. e.g. For a home break-in that ends in killing(s) they’ll charge with breaking and entering, robbery, manslaughter, and murder. With one count of manslaughter and one of murder for each dead person. And sometimes separate charges for separate degrees of murder on each of the various victims.

The prosecutor’s thinking is they may not win every count, but they’ll win some of them. Which will still result in a conviction on their scorecard and the bad guy put away for awhile. The fact that juries tend to assume more guilt the longer the charge sheet is considered a bug by the defense but a feature by the prosecution.

Its very common in all the Westminster jurisdictions to have manslaughter “included” with the murder charge. It can be said to be merely three verdicts for the murder charge … “Guilty of murder”, “Guilty of Manslaughter”, “Not Guilty”.

So what if during a murder trial, the court drops murder verdict ? The trial can continue to run as if the original charge was manslaughter. It may be said that the charge was manslaughter to keep things straight forward.

The way this handled varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

I understand from previous threads here that in some states of the US, the prosecutor gets to decide whether lesser included offenses are put to the jury. For instance, I think in the case of the English nanny a few years ago, the prosecutor only put the most serious offense to the jury.

In other jurisdictions in the common law world, it’s up to the judge to decide if a lesser included offense should be put to the jury. That’s how it works in Canada.

The indictment just lists the most serious charge. Then, after all the evidence is in, the Crown and the defence can make submissions on this point to the judge, who then decides whether to instruct the jury on the lesser included offences.

If the judge decides to do so, the judge will start with the offence actually charged, then would explain the idea of lease included offences, and instruct the jury on each one in turn. It’s then up to the jury to decide which, if any, offence the accused is guilty of.

The usual example of lesser included is:

• Murder 1st degree - intentionally kill, with premeditation:

• Murder 2nd degree - intentionally cause death, without premeditation:

• Manslaughter - cause death by an unlawful act, but without intention.

The jury would first consider murder 1. If they find the accused intentionally killed with premeditation, they should convict.

If they conclude no premeditation, they should then consider murder
2. If they find intentional killing, they should convict.

If they find no intention, they then consider manslaughter. If they find the accused caused death by an unlawful act, they should convict. If not, they should acquit.

And, if they accept a defence, then they should acquit. For instance, if they conclude that the accused didn’t cause the death, or have a doubt about it, based on the medical evidence, they should acquit.