AP Style Homicide, Murder, Manslaughter

AP Style states that “homicide” is a legal term for slaying or killing.

“Murder” is malicious, premeditated homicide. Some states define certain homicides as murder if the killing occurs in the course of armed robbery, rape, etc.

Generally speaking, “manslaughter” is homicide without malice or premeditation.

A “homicide” should not be described as “murder” unless a person has been convicted of that charge.

Do not say that a victim was “murdered” until someone has been convicted in court. Instead, say that a victim was “killed” or “slain.” Do not write that “X” was charged with “murdering Y.” Use the formal charge – murder – and, if not already in the story, specify the nature of the killing – shooting, stabbing, beating, poisoning, drowning, etc. For example,

  • Mr. Jones was charged with the murder in the stabbing of his girlfriend.

Here are a few more examples,

  • An officer pulled over 29-year-old John White, who was arrested and charged with murder, according to Andrew Johnson, the county sheriff’s spokesman.
  • The 66-year-old amateur photographer has pleaded not guilty to four counts of first-degree murder for the slaying of four women.
  • The killings occurred between 1977 and 1979. Prosecutors say Adams raped, tortured, and robbed some of them before killing them.
  • Cook County Sheriff James Jones says a shooting that left a man injured appears to be a murder-suicide.

See also AP Style Execute and AP Style Assassin, Killer, Murderer.

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