A Polk County judge handed down the sentence to Rashawn Cooper, 27, for second-degree murder with a weapon. He was convicted of the charge for fatally running over his girlfriend, Cherish Johnson, with their SUV in December 2014 in the heat of an argument. Now he will serve life in prison. Is this also wrongful death?
We have had numerous clients come to us with the same questions about murder and wrongful death over the years. They asked us: What is the difference between murder and wrongful death? Can someone be found innocent of murder, but guilty of wrongful death?
Civil vs. Criminal
For starters, a murder would be tried in a criminal court, while wrongful death lawsuits are tried in a civil court. Due to the differences in burden of proof, an individual could be found innocent of murder and still face a civil lawsuit for wrongful death. In a wrongful death case, the burden of proof is “by a preponderance of the evidence,” while a murder trial requires the jury to find the person guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.
Intent vs. Negligence vs. Carelessness
Wrongful death does not necessarily require negligence to win a case, although negligence is often found in cases. Wrongful death does not require premeditation or intent, either. Wrongful death could be a doctor performing or not performing in a careless manner that somehow causes a patient to die. A murder conviction will often be punishable by time in prison while losing a wrongful death lawsuit usually means that you will be punished by paying a hefty financial penalty.
Case Examples – Murder vs. Wrongful Death
In the example of Rushawn Cooper, who, in a heated dispute with his girlfriend, drove after Cherish Johnson and ran into her, moving faster than 30 mph, he committed murder. If a driver of a car is putting on makeup in the mirror while driving and unintentionally hits and kills a pedestrian, that driver will probably not be found guilty of murder, because the intent is not present. The family of the pedestrian could file a wrongful death lawsuit against the driver in civil court, however, seeking monetary compensation.
Contact Our Firm For Help
Wrongful death lawsuits are tough to go through after losing someone you care about. Our Clearwater wrongful death lawyers are experienced in handling wrongful death lawsuits and will fight for justice to be served for the loss of your loved one. Contact our firm by calling our offices.