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Smallwood v. State

    Citation. 343 Md. 97,680 A.2d 512, 1996 Md.65 U.S.L.W. 2127

    Brief Fact Summary. Appellant raped several women while he knew he was infected with the HIV virus. Appellant contests his convictions for attempted murder.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Intent to kill under the proper circumstances can be inferred from the use of a deadly weapon directed at a vital part of the body.


    Facts. Appellant tested positive for HIV. On three separate occasions, Appellant raped and robbed different woman. Appellant did not use a condom. Appellant was charged with rape, robbery, assault with intent to murder, and reckless endangerment. The trial court convicted Appellant on all counts. The Appellate Court agreed and Appellant appealed.

    Issue. Whether there was sufficient circumstantial evidence to show that Appellant had the requisite intent for attempted murder.

    Held. The attempted murder convictions are reversed. An inference of intent to kill cannot be had solely from the fact that Appellant exposed his victims to the HIV virus.
    Intent to kill may be proved by circumstantial evidence, its presence can be shown by established facts which permit a proper inference of its existence.

    Intent to kill under the proper circumstances can be inferred from the use of a deadly weapon directed at a vital part of the body.


    Discussion. The Court focused on medical consequences from exposure to HIV. The Court noted that death by AIDS is one natural possible consequence of exposing someone to the risk of HIV infection, but alone insufficient to allow inference of an intent to kill. The Court referenced State v. Haines, 645 N.E.22d 834 (Ind. App. 1989), where the Defendant cut himself and tried to spray blood on the arresting officers while also trying to bite them and yelling he would give them AIDS. This case allowed a sufficient inference of intent to kill versus the case at bar where Appellant manifested intent to rape and rob, but not kill his victims.


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