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187 is a numeric code for the crime of murder. It is primarily used by law enforcement officials in the U.S. state of California—especially police, prosecutors, and judges—because Section 187 of the California Penal Code defines the crime of murder. The number is commonly pronounced by reading the digits separately as "one-eight-seven," or "one-eighty-seven," rather than "one hundred eighty-seven."

The number 187 is now in common use by many gangs throughout the United States as a synonym for murder; this usage has been reported among gangs as far away as Florida[1] and Wisconsin.[2]

Contents

Typical usage

Section 187, subdivision (a), defines murder as the "unlawful killing of a human being, or fetus, with malice aforethought,"[3] while subdivision (b) provides an exception to allow for abortions, as required by federal constitutional law (see Roe v. Wade (1973))

In California, suspects are usually charged by reference to one or more Penal Code (PC) sections. Thus, the charging documents for a suspect charged for murder would be inscribed with "PC 187(a)" or just "PC 187." If a suspect is charged with attempted murder, then the relevant code would be "PC 664/187" because attempt is defined in Penal Code section 664.[4]

Since murder is such a serious crime, the use of "187" as a synonym for murder is well-known among California attorneys and judges. For example, in June 2007, the California Court of Appeal (Fourth District, Division Three) reversed a verdict for the defendant in part because the judge kept making jokes such as telling the plaintiffs' lawyer she could object "until I die" and then the next day following up with "objection, 187," in response to new objections from her.[5] The Court of Appeal was not amused with the trial judge's sarcastic method of telling the plaintiffs' lawyer that her objections were so bad that they were killing him (in the figurative sense).

Media references

See also

References

  1. ^ Michael A. Scarcella, "Rival gangs shoot it out: Manatee cracks down as violence escalates," Sarasota Herald-Tribune 13 August 2005, A1.
  2. ^ Andy Hall, "A Primer on Local Gangs," Wisconsin State Journal, 19 June 2005, A12.
  3. ^ People v. Davis, 7 Cal. 4th 797, 30 Cal. Rptr. 2d 50, 872 P.2d 591 (1994). Davis held that that viability of the fetus is not a requirement under Section 187. The result is a criminal defendant in California can be convicted for murdering a fetus which the mother herself could legally abort under the framework established in Roe v. Wade. The even stranger part of this holding, as pointed out by Justice Stanley Mosk in dissent, is that a nonviable fetus may be so small, and thus not externally visible, that a defendant can be convicted of intentionally murdering a person he did not even know existed.
  4. ^ For examples of these usages, see the Uniform Bail Schedule, Superior Court of California, County of Santa Cruz.
  5. ^ Haluck v. Ricoh Electronics, Inc., 151 Cal. App. 4th 994, 1005 (2007).

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