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People v. Miller

Citation. 2 Cal. 2d 527, 42 P.2d 308, 1935 Cal. 359, 98 A.L.R. 913.
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Brief Fact Summary.

The Defendant, Miller (Defendant), threatened to kill Albert Jeans (Jeans). Jeans was working in a field when the defendant showed up with a .22 caliber rifle. The Defendant never raised the rifle and surrendered the gun without resistance when confronted.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

Where the defendant’s actions are equivocal, the defendant cannot be guilty of attempt.


The Defendant threatened to kill Jeans in the presence of others at the post office in the town of Booneville. Jeans worked for Constable Ginochio (Ginochio) on his ranch and Jeans and others, including Ginochio, were working in a field planting hops when the Defendant appeared with his .22 caliber rifle. When the Defendant had proceeded about 100 yards in the direction of Ginochio and Jeans, he stopped, apparently to load the rifle. Seeing the Defendant, Jeans fled on a line at right angles to the Defendant. Ginochio took the gun from the Defendant without resistance without a shot being fired.


Do the Defendant’s actions constitute attempted murder?


No. If a person clearly shows the intent to commit a crime, slight acts done in furtherance of the criminal design will constitute an attempt. In other words, a person is not guilty of attempt so long as his actions are equivocal. In the present case, no one could say with certainty that the Defendant went to Ginochio’s field, where Jeans was working, with the intent to kill Jeans. It is possible, based on the defendant’s actions, that he was merely going to demand that Ginochio arrest Jeans. The Defendant never fired a shot and readily surrendered the gun to Ginochio. The defendant’s actions do not constitute an attempt to commit murder.


Where the defendant’s true intent is unknown and cannot be definitively inferred, he cannot be guilty of attempt.

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