Brief Fact Summary. The Defendants, Ejaan Dupree McCoy (McCoy) and Derrick Lakey (Lakey) (Defendants), were tried together and convicted of crimes arising out of a drive-by shooting in Stockton in 1995.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. The statement that an aider and abettor may not be guilty of a greater offense than the direct perpetrator, although sometimes true in individual cases, is not universally correct. Aider and abettor liability is premised not on the combined acts of all the principals, but on the aider and abettor’s own mens rea. If the mens rea of the aider and abettor is more culpable than the actual perpetrator’s, the aider and abettor may be guilty of a more serious crime than the actual perpetrator.
Issue. Can an aider and abettor be guilty of greater homicide-related offenses than those the actual perpetrator committed?
Held. Lakey, as the aider and abettor, can be charged and convicted of greater homicide-related offenses than McCoy, the actual perpetrator, committed. As a result, the judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed and the cause is remanded.
Discussion. As applied here, the Defendants were to some extent both actual perpetrators and aiders and abettors. Both fired their handguns, although McCoy’s gun inflicted the fatal wounds. Once the jury found, as it clearly did, that Lakey acted with the necessary mental state of an aider and abettor, it could find him liable for both his and McCoy’s acts, without having to distinguish between them. But Lakey’s guilt was also based on his own mental state, not McCoy’s. McCoy’s unreasonable self-defense theory was personal to him. A jury could reasonably have found that Lakey did not act under unreasonable self-defense even if McCoy did. Thus, his conviction of murder and attempted murder can stand, notwithstanding that on retrial McCoy might be convicted of a lesser crime or even acquitted.