North Carolina has a very traditional conception of first degree murder. First degree murder was historically murder that required malice aforethought and premeditation, that was evidenced by poisoning, lying in wait etc.
In addition, First Degree Murder can be proved if someone, in the course of committing another violent felony – such as robbery or burglary – inadvertently kills a bystander or victim.
First Degree Murder has two possible penalties: life without parole or death.
Here’s the statute:
N.C.G.S. 14-17. Murder in the first and second degree defined; punishment.
A murder which shall be perpetrated by means of a nuclear, biological, or chemical weapon of mass destruction as defined in G.S. 14-288.21, poison, lying in wait, imprisonment, starving, torture, or by any other kind of willful, deliberate, and premeditated killing, or which shall be committed in the perpetration or attempted perpetration of any arson, rape or a sex offense, robbery, kidnapping, burglary, or other felony committed or attempted with the use of a deadly weapon shall be deemed to be murder in the first degree, a Class A felony, and any person who commits such murder shall be punished with death or imprisonment in the State’s prison for life without parole as the court shall determine pursuant to G.S. 15A-2000, except that any such person who was under 18 years of age at the time of the murder shall be punished with imprisonment in the State’s prison for life without parole. All other kinds of murder, including that which shall be proximately caused by the unlawful distribution of opium or any synthetic or natural salt, compound, derivative, or preparation of opium, or cocaine or other substance described in G.S. 90-90(1)d., or methamphetamine, when the ingestion of such substance causes the death of the user, shall be deemed murder in the second degree, and any person who commits such murder shall be punished as a Class B2 felon.