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State v. Bingham

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Defendant, Bingham, was charged with first degree murder after he chocked the victim to death, while raping her. 

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    When analyzing the premeditation requirement for first degree murder, the analysis can not be based on the question of whether a sufficient amount of time had passed to qualify as premeditated.

    Facts.

    Bingham and the victim, Leslie Cook, got off a bus together and visited various places over a period of time, despite the fact they did not know each other. Three days later, Cook’s body was found in a field, near where the two were spotted at one point, and Bingham was charged with first degree murder. First degree murder requires that a defendant kill with premeditation and deliberation. Premeditation is defined as the deliberation and cool reflection by the defendant, before the defendant takes a life. Experts testified that Cook’s death was caused by strangulation, which was accomplished by putting pressure on the windpipe for between 3 and 5 minutes, and also noted the body had bruises and bites on it. The prosecution believed that during the act of sexual intercourse, Bingham decided to take the Cook’s life, and that Cook was still alive during the course of the sexually intercourse. The prosecution argued that the murder was still premeditated if Bingham formed the intent to kill Cook during the strangulation. Bingham argued that 3-5 minutes was not a sufficient amount of time to form the requisite state of mind for premeditated murder.

    Issue.

    Whether when analyzing the premeditation requirement for first degree murder, the analysis can be based on the question of whether a sufficient amount of time had passed to qualify as premeditated?

    Held.

    No. When analyzing the premeditation requirement for first degree murder, the analysis cannot be based on the question of whether a sufficient amount of time had passed to qualify as premeditated?

    Concurrence.

    None

    Discussion.

    There would be no distinction between first and second degree murder if the premeditation element of first degree murder could be based on the amount of time that passes because even if the defendant had a sufficient amount of time to deliberate that does not prove that he actually did. It would follow that any murder that took longer than a split second could then satisfy the premeditation and deliberation requirement. Here, while Bingham did kill Cook by applying pressure to her windpipe, that does not necessarily mean that he killed with premeditation and deliberation, but could have simply been trying to silence her, and does not prove cool reflection. Furthermore, it is unclear whether a person can even sufficiently deliberate while engaged in sexual activity. The facts surrounding this case are only sufficient to establish first, but not second degree murder. 


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