There are two different “severities” or degrees of murder in the eyes of the law: first and second degree murder. Cal. Pen. Code s. 189 . If the defendant acted willfully, deliberately, and with premeditation, the murder is classified as first degree. “Willful” means the defendant intended to kill. “Deliberately” means the defendant carefully weighed the considerations for and against killing another person and, knowing the consequences, decided to kill. “Premeditation” means the defendant decided to kill before committing the act that caused death. Premeditation does not require much time at all–in some cases, a second is enough to find premeditation.
Additionally, any murder committed by a bomb, explosive, weapon of mass destruction (WMD), armor piercing ammunition, poison, lying in wait (ambush), or torture is first degree murder.
Finally, any murder committed during the attempt to or actual committing of arson, rape, carjacking, robbery, burglary, mayhem, kidnapping, train wrecking, drive-by shooting, sodomy, lewd or lascivious acts with children, oral sex, penetration of the genitals by a foreign object is first degree murder. All other murders are considered second degree murders.