The Baltimore Sun reports in an article that former middle school teacher Cory Yantz, 37, of Cumberland, MD, has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. The charges stem from the stabbing death of Yantz’s wife, 34-year-old Tanya Yantz, who was killed last August.
In order to understand the difference between first and second-degree murder in Maryland, a close reading of the statutes governing first-degree murder is required. Maryland retains an older distinction between first and second-degree murder which dates from United States common law. A murder is in the first degree if it meets at least one of the following four criteria:
- The killing is deliberate, premeditated and willful
- The killing is done by poison
- The killing is accomplished by lying in wait
- The killing occurs during the commission or the attempt to commit one or more violent felonies.
If the circumstances surrounding a killing do not meet at least one of these criteria, the appropriate charge is second-degree murder.
How Second-Degree Murder Is Used in the Courts
The sentencing options for first-degree murder are quite severe: life imprisonment, life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, even the death penalty. However, the state must operate under stricter procedural rules to pursue the death penalty.
Second-degree murder charges are often considered as a plea bargain in Maryland homicide cases. For the prosecution, the lesser charge can be easier to prove beyond a reasonable doubt in court. From the criminal defense standpoint, second-degree murder carries less severe penalties, with a maximum prison sentence of 30 years.
The criminal courts are a complex and ever-changing arena for all parties involved. If you have any questions or concerns about Maryland criminal cases, please contact the knowledgeable and skilled criminal defense attorneys in Maryland at Alpert Schreyer Poe, LLC for more information. If you have been charged with a violent crime, the attorneys of Alpert Schreyer have considerable experience with violent criminal cases such as homicide and assault and can help protect your rights. Call (301) 321-7277 today for a free case evaluation.