We start again with Eulo, this is a copy and paste from my notes on Legality. We had read this case for that discussion previously but did not get there. So, we read it again and here are the notes.
The Protected Interest: “Human Being”
People v. Eulo
Court of Appeals of New York, 1984. 63 N.Y.2d 341, 482 N.Y.S.2d 436, 472 N.E.2d 286.
Eulo is the defendant while people are the plaintiffs. Defendants lost and appealed.
When does death occur? At the stopping of a beating heart or when braindead? What authority does the court have to make this determination?
Death is defined as understood in its ordinary and accepted meaning as it was understood at the time. If a definition to the term had been given prior to the statute, then that definition could apply.
Death is defined as when the brain has no function that cannot be reversed. Here, the instructions could have been better but seeing that there was no break in causation, there is no need to reevaluate (the result from the causation chain is the same).
Defendants cases are combined. They shot people in the head who was rushed to a hospital and put on life support. Once they were declared braindead, they were taken off life support and their organs were harvested for donation. The defendants claim that the jury instruction was faulty, that they should be only guilty of manslaughter, not murder, because the physician could be the cause of death, not the gunshot wound.
Here, the courts need to determine if death is defined as when the heart stops beating (traditional) or when the brain stops functioning (modern). Many jurisdictions have adopted a standard that if the brain stops functioning and the heart is functioning only by mechanical means, then the person could be declared dead at that time. Other jurisdictions maintain the traditional standard. Here, in New York, the legislature has not given a standard. So, the court uses the common understanding of the law to provide a definition for when it is dead. As this is consistent with the legislature’s concept of death, the court has the means to do so.
A person can be considered dead, even if their body technically functions, although only mechanically (i.e. Use of a respirator to keep the heart pumping when the brain had refused to do so).
Degrees of Murder: The Deliberation-Premeditation Formula
State v. Guthrie
West Virgina 194 W. Va. 657 (1995).
Guthrie is the defendant. He was charged with Murder in the first degree but wants murder in the second degree. Lost and appealed.
Was the trial court wrong to provide an instruction on First Degree Murder? Was the defendant entitled to a different instruction?
Murder in the first degree requires killing another person:
- and Premeditatedly
The definitions of the terms listed above is incorrect in some of the instructions provided. Here, this instruction should be used and the ruling of the trial court is reversed and remanded for a new trial consistent with that instruction.
Two individuals worked together as dishwashers. They had previously gotten along well. Here, the defendant was in a bad mood and was being teased by his co-worker. He was whipped several times with a hand towel (playfully). One of those whips struck the defendant in the nose. When it did so, he became enraged, pulled out a knife, and stabbed the victim.
The defendant had a history of psychiatric problems including depression, over obsession with his nose, etc. and was in treatment.
The trial court provided an instruction as to the definitions about the words of the elements stating that any of them can be met with only an instant passing of time.
First degree murder must meet the elements above. All other forms of murder are second degree.
The instructions given by the trial court was improper. This is because there is a distinction between the first and second degrees of murder that the courts respect. Because the instruction construed premeditation and deliberation to be found even in the instant at the time of the murder, there was no distinction made. So, there should be an instruction to show the distinction.
A person can deliberate and premeditate a murder for a variety of time. It is up to the jury to look at the defendant, his mindset, circumstances, etc. to determine what this period of time should be. It could be an instant, it could be months. But it should be established by the subjective examination of the defendant.
Premeditation and deliberation could be found to have occurred in a variety of lengths of time. The purpose of this instruction is to distinguish the difference between first degree and second degree murder.
Midgett v. State
Arkansas 292 Ark. 278 (1997).
Midgett was the defendant, charged and convicted of first degree murder. Because he wants second, degree, he appealed.
Is there enough evidence to support the conviction of first degree murder.
There is a difference between first and second degree murder. First degree murder is:
All other murders are second degree.
There was not enough evidence to support a conviction for first degree murder. However, there is enough evidence to support second degree murder. The conviction for first degree is reversed but the defendant is convicted of the lessor second degree of murder.
This is another sad case where a father abused his 8 year old child. The child suffered several injuries over an extensive period of time. He was starved, punched, kicked, and choked. On the Saturday night in question, the father had too much to drink, delivered four blows to the child. On Wednesday, the father arrived at the hospital with the child who was pronounced dead. The autopsy showed that the child died “as the result of intra-abdominal hemorrhage consistent with the force caused by a human fist.
Later, the father was charged and convicted by the jury of murder in the first degree.
The main opinion once again makes the distinction between murder in the first and second degree. Murder in the first degree requires deliberation and premeditation. Because the father did not premeditate the death of the child, but instead wanted to abuse, there was no premeditation of killing the boy.
The courts did mention that other jurisdictions had enacted legislature to make one liable for murder in the first degree for those who die from aggravated battery or “torture” without the intent to kill. Arkansas here though has no rule.
The dissent disagrees wholly with this ruling. They say that the jury “could easily conclude that such repeated treatment was intended to kill the child.” Consequently, this should be left to the jury to determine the degree of murder. Since they found first degree, that is the result that should stand.
Murder in the first degree requires deliberation and premeditation. If there is a distinction made between first and second degree, then those elements must be shown. Sometimes legislatures write in exceptions, as Arkansas did in the aftermath of this case. They amended their criminal code to make it a first degree murder to “knowingly cause the death of a person fourteen years of age or younger” with indifference to human life.
State v. Forrest
North Carolina 321 N.C. 186 (1987).
Forrest is the defendant, convicted of first degree murder. He had moved for a directed judgement against first degree but was denied. He appeals.
Was this first degree murder?
Global rule remains the same as the previously mentioned cases required deliberation and premeditation. Here, there are factors to consider to determine if the murder was premeditated:
- Provocation for the deceased
- Conduct and statements of the defendant
- Threats and declarations of the defendant giving rise to the event
- Ill-will between parties
- Dealing of lethal blows (after deceased is helpless)
- Brutal manner of killing
The totality of circumstances is sufficient to show that he could have committed murder of the first degree, ruling affirmed.
Defendants father (deceased) was severely ill. He was admitted to the hospital where they determined that no extraordinary care would be provided to the father. The defendant came to visit his father in the hospital, was told by the nurses that he was doing well, but wanted to be alone with him. He cried, shot his father several times, and left the scene. Many of his statements later was that he wanted to put his father out of his misery and had previously told him that he would not let him suffer.
Using the factors above, the court takes the facts and shows where they could meet the factors. Here, the ill father had done nothing the harbor resentment. The father was helpless and the son had administered several shots that required him to pull back the hammer of the weapon each time. Most significantly, the statements from the son showed that the he had premeditated the killing of his father to put him out of his misery.
How do we prove that there was deliberate and premeditated action? By looking at the circumstances. Consider the difference in the previous case where the circumstances did not show evidence of premeditation. What was the key difference here? Most likely, the difference was that the evidence was clearly making references to killing in Forrest while the other case made no inferences specifically to the action.
The content contained in this article may contain inaccuracies and is not intended to reflect the opinions, views, beliefs, or practices of any academic professor or publication. Instead, this content is a reflection on the author’s understanding of the law and legal practices.