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Commonwealth v. Carroll

    Citation. 22 Ill.412 Pa. 525, 194 A.2d 911 (1963)

    Brief Fact Summary. Defendant Carroll was found guilty of first degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment for shooting and killing his wife after the two had violent argument. Defendant appealed, arguing that he was could not be found guilty of more than second-degree murder because the killing was not premeditated.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. While premeditation is an element of first-degree murder, where a killing is willful, deliberate and intentional, no time is too short for the necessary premeditation to occur.


    Facts. Defendant married a woman who later suffered from a schizoid personality type, complained of nervousness and was violent in disciplining their children. Upon his wife’s suggestion and request, Defendant placed a loaded pistol on the windowsill near their bed so that his wife would feel safe while he was out of town. When he returned from his trip, a violent fight ensued and continued for several hours. Defendant remembered the gun on the windowsill over his head, and according to his own testimony, he “reached up and grabbed the pistol and brought it down and shot her [his wife] twice in the back of the head.” He testified that he was not sure whether he felt is had move toward the gun and that the only thing he could remember from that point on is after the shots. “All I remember hearing was two shots and feeling myself go cold all of the sudden.” Defendant pleaded guilty to the indictment charging him with murder and he was subsequently tried without a jury and found guilty
    of first degree murder. The Defendant appeals, arguing that there was no premeditation and therefore the killing did not constitute first-degree murder.

    Issue. Does the evidence sustain a conviction of murder in the first degree? In other words, was the evidence presented at trial enough to prove the element of premeditation necessary for a conviction of murder in the first?

    Held. Yes. Judgment and conviction affirmed.
    The specific intent to kill may be found from a defendant’s words or conduct or from the attendant circumstances and may be inferred from the intentional use of a deadly weapon on a vital part of another human being.

    If a killing is intentional, willful, deliberate and premeditated, the amount of time between the premeditation and the actual killing is immaterial. Therefore, the defendant’s contention that there was insufficient time for premeditation is without merit.

    Premeditation is not negated by circumstances tending to show that the defendant acted with a lack of escape plan.

    A psychiatrist’s opinion as to a defendant’s lack of intent is entitled to very little weight, especially is a case such as this one, where the defendant’s own testimony is in opposition.


    Discussion. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court essentially holds that while some premeditation is a necessary element of murder in the first degree, “no time is too short for the necessary premeditation to occur”. In other words, it is immaterial how much time passes between the premeditation and the actual fatal act that takes place. Given the fact that premeditation can take place a fraction of a second before the fatal act takes place, think about the fine line between murder in the first, which requires premeditation, and second-degree murder, which does not.


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