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People v. Scott

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Defendant (Scott) was convicted of second degree murder and attempted murder for attempting to shoot one person, but mistakenly hitting another, killing them. 

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    A criminal defendant can be held liable for killing an unintended victim under the doctrine of transferred intent even if they are also prosecuted for attempted murder of the intended victim.

    Facts.

    Defendant Scott’s mother was in a relationship with a man named Hughes, and their relationship began to sour, and Scott proceeded to go to their apartment and force Hughes out. A few days later, Scott followed Hughes to the park and began spraying bullets in Hughes’ direction with an automatic weapon. However, instead of killing Hughes, Scott hit a bystander and was indicted and convicted of second degree murder. The trial court instructed the jury on the doctrine of transferred intent and Scott argued he cannot be charged with both the murder of the unintended victim and attempted murder of the intended victim.

    Issue.

    Whether a criminal defendant can be held liable for killing an unintended victim under the doctrine of transferred intent even if they are also prosecuted for attempted murder of the intended victim?

    Held.

    Yes. A criminal defendant can be held liable for killing an unintended victim under the doctrine of transferred intent even if they are also prosecuted for attempted murder of the intended victim?

    Concurrence.

    None

    Discussion.

    Under the doctrine of transferred intent a criminal defendant can be charged for murder even if the person he killed was not their intended victim. An intent to kill the actual victim is not required. A person who kills an intended victim, but who still intended to kill a different victim, is still criminally liable as if he had killed the intended victim. The defendant argued the doctrine does not apply in those situations because they did not kill their intended victim, but his argument lacks merit. A criminal defendant can be held liable for the murder of a bystander when they only intend to kill another individual.


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