Human beings’ actions and interactions are intention based of which intention can either be good or bad. An intention is a premeditated idea in the human brain that causes them to act in a particular way. For instance, before robbers execute a bank heist, planning takes a significant chunk of time and resources (both human and financial). Bottom line is the robbery will have been premeditated. The more reason why criminal liability can only be qualified by proving both the act (actus reus) and the accompanying intention (mens rea).
In fact, the difference between murder and manslaughter is the presence or lack thereof of mens Rea. Whenever a charge of murder is preferred, the question of determination by the court revolves around presence or absence of intention to cause grevious harm or death.
As per our statutes and in particular the Penal Code, section 204 defines murder as malice aforethought to cause grevious harm or death and the same attracts a death sentence should an accused person be convicted. Nonetheless, the type of sentence to met out is squarely placed on the feet of the trial Judge. Manslaughter on the other hand is accidental killing or taking of another person’s life by another human being. Case in point; when one is driving a vehicle and accidently knocks someone down and the person dies, he/she will be charged with the offense of manslaughter.
Manslaughter can also be as a result of provocation. However, the onus to prove provocation rests on the defense. Case in point, if woman walks into her husband having sex with another woman, there is a very high likelihood of a violent reaction which may lead to the death of either party.
On conviction, the offense of manslaughter attracts a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Given the circumstances surrounding the commissioning of the offense, the sentence may go down.