There are no degrees of murder in Texas.
Sec. 19.01. TYPES OF CRIMINAL HOMICIDE
(a) A person commits criminal homicide if he intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence causes the death of an individual.
(b) Criminal homicide is murder, capital murder, manslaughter, or criminally negligent homicide.
Sec. 19.02. MURDER
(b) A person commits an offense if he:
(1) intentionally or knowingly causes the death of an individual;
(2) intends to cause serious bodily injury and commits an act clearly dangerous to human life that causes the death of an individual; or
(3) commits or attempts to commit a felony, other than manslaughter, and in the course of and in furtherance of the commission or attempt, or in immediate flight from the commission or attempt, he commits or attempts to commit an act clearly dangerous to human life that causes the death of an individual.
How Was It Committed
Every case is different. Every killing is different. Homicides are personal. The relationship between the accused and the decedent is always relevant in a murder case. Sometimes homicides are committed out of pure rage. Sometimes they are committed under the immediate influence of sudden passion. This doesn’t exculpate or excuse the conduct. However, if a homicide is committed under the immediate influence of sudden passion then the range of punishment is decreased to that of a second-degree felony (2-20 years) rather than a first-degree felony (5-99 years).
A Self Defense Argument
No discussion of assault or homicide is complete without a discussion of the justification of self-defense under Penal Code 9.31, 9.32, and 9.33. A person has the right to use deadly force in defense of self or others if the person has a reasonable belief that it is necessary to stop the other person from seriously injuring or killing them or another person. In some instances, similar to self-defense, a person is justified in using deadly force to protect land or tangible, movable property. Importantly, “reasonable belief” means a belief that would be held by an ordinary and prudent man in the same circumstances as the actor. It’s not a 20/20 hindsight view; it’s a view standing in the actor’s own shoes.
In Texas, we have no duty to retreat. While there is no duty to retreat, the force used must be reasonable and proportional given the facts of the case. However, it’s not as simple as “don’t bring a gun to a knife fight.” The facts of each case must be analyzed.
Finally, mental health issues are prevalent in our world. Sometimes, because of mental illness, people do not know what they are doing is wrong and kill another. In situations like this, a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity is afforded under our law. People who are suffering such a severe mental illness that they do not know their conduct is wrong do not belong in prison and instead are sent to the state hospital.
Don't ever take a plea deal without understanding your case and knowing all of your options, and do not talk to the police without your lawyer!