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State v. Schrader

Citation. 172 W. Va. 1
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172 W. Va. 1

Brief Fact Summary. The Defendant, William Schrader, Jr., was convicted of first-degree murder after stabbing Frank Millione to death in a dispute.

Synopsis of Rule of Law. “Premeditation” need not exist for any appreciable length of time; only that the Defendant knowingly and intentionally committed the crime.

Points of Law - Legal Principles in this Case for Law Students.

In the absence of any substantial countervailing factors, where a new rule of criminal law is made of a nonconstitutional nature, it will be applied retroactively only to those cases in litigation or on appeal where the same legal point has been preserved.

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Facts. On the date in question, the Defendant went to Frank Millione’s Gun and Coin Shop to purchase and trade war souvenirs. The Defendant and the victim began to argue after the victim questioned the authenticity of a German sword he previously purchased. Subsequently, the Defendant stabbed the victim fifty-one times with a hunting knife. The Defendant claimed he acted in self-defense because the victim was known to carry weapons, and he reached into his pocket to draw a gun during the course of the argument. The Defendant admitted, however, that the victim never produced a gun from his pocket.

Issue. Did the trial court properly instruct the jury on the definition of “premeditation?”

Held. Yes. The intent to kill for premeditated murder need only exist for an instant. This is how the legislature intended to define first-degree murder. To wit, the meaning of premeditated as used in the statute was essentially “knowing” and “intentional.” Courts have further consistently recognized that the mental process necessary to constitute “willful, deliberate and premeditated” murder can be accomplished very quickly. Therefore, even though the Defendant’s intent to kill formed quickly, he is guilty of first-degree murder.

Discussion. Premeditation requires no time at all so long as the intent to kill is fully formed upon taking action.

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