Murder vs. Manslaughter: Criminal justice professor explains the difference

Murder vs. Manslaughter: Criminal justice professor explains the difference
Katherine Sinclair.
Katherine Sinclair.

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - As WDAM continues coverage of the the death of Katherine Sinclair in Jones County, the difference between murder and manslaughter has been repeatedly asked.

Her former boyfriend, Gregory Burroughs, turned himself in to the Jones County Sheriff's Department Monday evening after being indicted on manslaughter charges by a Jones County grand jury.

Sinclair died after from a gunshot  wound she received on June 1, 2017 in Burroughs' garage.

"Any death that is not natural is a homicide," said University of Southern Mississippi Associate Professor of Criminal Justice Dr. Alan Thompson. "If the death is a result of a criminal act, it's criminal homicide."

Within the variety of criminal homicides, the law breaks it down to murder and manslaughter charges. Thompson described the difference in charges.

"Murder is typically committed with intent and malice, a forethought," Thompson said. "The person planned and intended to commit the act."

If convicted of murder, a person can face up to life in prison or even capital punishment. Then there is manslaughter, the charge Burroughs faces in the death of his former girlfriend, Katherine Sinclair.

"Manslaughter is a lesser offense that still involves the death of an individual, but is generally not premeditated or perhaps it may even be accidental," Thompson said.

Leading up to the formal charges, it is the grand jury that makes the decision determining what charges an offender will face after hearing from state prosecutors. That's when the indictment is filed.

As criminal court proceedings continue, as in the Burroughs case, the next step after the offender is booked and officially charged will be for the defendant's attorney to decide whether the case be handled as a trial by jury or a bench trial, where the conviction is decided solely by a judge.

Someone facing manslaughter charges faces up to 20 years in prison. If the person is only sentenced to 12 months or less, the defendant will serve that sentence in the county jail.