Five former Memphis police officers have been charged with second-degree murder, and other felony charges, in the death of Tyre Nichols.
Nichols, 29, died Jan. 10, three days after a traffic stop near his mother's home and after what Memphis police called a "confrontation."
A preliminary report from an independent forensic pathologist said Nichols suffered "extensive bleeding caused by a severe beating."
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Here's what to know about the legal definition of second-degree murder in Tennessee and the potential penalties it carries.
What is second-degree murder?
Second-degree murder in Tennessee is below first-degree murder (considered an intentional and planned murder), but more serious than voluntary manslaughter (murder committed in the "heat of passion").
Second-degree murder is not eligible for the death penalty, unlike first-degree murder in Tennessee. However, it is considered a Class A felony, the highest level of felony in the state.
According to Tennessee state statue, second-degree murder is classified as "a knowing killing of another; or a killing of another that results from the unlawful distribution of any Schedule I or Schedule II drug, when the drug is the proximate cause of the death of the user."
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The statue continues: "In a prosecution for a violation of this section, if the defendant knowingly engages in multiple incidents of domestic abuse, assault or the infliction of bodily injury against a single victim, the trier of fact may infer that the defendant was aware that the cumulative effect of the conduct was reasonably certain to result in the death of the victim, regardless of whether any single incident would have resulted in the death."
What is the difference between first- and second-degree murder?
First-degree murder in Tennessee refers to the premediated and intentional killing of another person. This is the most serious charge one can receive in Tennessee and can result in the death penalty or life imprisonment with or without parole.
What is the penalty for second-degree murder?
A conviction for second-degree murder in Tennessee can result in 15 to 60 years in prison, along with a fine of up to $50,000.
If convicted, the sentence for the five officers could be even more severe, given the added charges of aggravated assault-acting in concert, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression.
This article originally appeared on Memphis Commercial Appeal: Tyre Nichols: What is second-degree murder in Tennessee?