“Homicide” is the death of a person caused by another.  Under Iowa law, “Murder” is the killing of a person with malice aforethought. There are two degrees of Murder in Iowa: First Degree Murder and Second Degree Murder.  First Degree Murder is a Class A Felony which – except for juvenile defendants – carries a term of life in prison.  Murder in the First Degree can be committed in various ways which include premeditated murder, felony murder, murder that occurs during an escape attempt, and the murder of a police officer, correctional officer, public employee or hostage.  There are also special types of First Degree Murder that apply to the death of a child or to acts of terrorism.


Felony murder can also be committed in different ways. Although there are technical exceptions, felony murder generally occurs when an individual kills another person while participating in a forcible felony. Forcible felonies are defined under Iowa law and include felonious child endangerment, felonious assault, sexual abuse, kidnapping and certain types of arson and burglary.

Generally, Second Degree Murder is similar to First Degree Murder but without a specific intent or premeditation component.  Except for juvenile defendants, Murder in the Second Degree carries a term of imprisonment of 50 years although the defendant is eligible for parole before serving the full sentence.

Murder cases are prosecuted by the Polk County Attorney and senior members of his staff.  These attorneys are notified immediately when police learn of a suspicious death. The Polk County Attorney and one or more of his staff go to the scene of the death to help police.  Police officers and crime scene technicians spend long hours and significant resources investigating these cases. The attorneys involved in these type of cases offer legal advice throughout the course of the investigation, assist in the preparation of search warrants, help in obtaining investigative subpoenas and meet with victim’s families.