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Commonwealth v. Malone

    Citation. 354 Pa. 177

    Brief Fact Summary. Defendant Malone was convicted of murder for killing his friend while playing Russian roulette. Defendant argued that he did not intend to harm the victim and therefore the facts do not justify a conviction of murder.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Malice, the state of mind required for murder, is evidenced where an individual performs an uncalled for act in disregard of its likely harmful effects on another even where the harmful result is not intended.


    Facts. Defendant was convicted of second-degree murder for killing his friend while playing Russian roulette. Defendant testified that he had loaded the gun chamber directly to the right of the firing chamber and that when he pulled the trigger he did not expect the gun to go off. He claimed that he did not intend to harm the victim and on appeal, argues that therefore the facts do not justify a conviction of murder but only manslaughter.

    Issue. Can recklessness satisfy the state of mind required to uphold a conviction of manslaughter?

    Held. Yes. Judgment affirmed.
    When an individual commits an act of gross recklessness without regard to the probability that death to another is likely to result, that individual exhibits the state of mind required to uphold a conviction of manslaughter even if the individual did not intend for death to ensue.

    Malice, the state of mind required for murder, is evidenced where an individual performs an uncalled for act in disregard of its likely harmful effects on another.


    Discussion. This case introduces the line drawing that courts must engage in to distinguish between murder and manslaughter with regard to unintentional killings.

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