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.