Criminal Law, Pages 454–458

People v. Gentry

Appellate Court of Illinois, 1987

Facts:

Defendant and his girlfriend H were arguing, and defendant spilled gasoline on her and threatened her with matches. H then allegedly walked too close to the stove and caught fire. Defendant smothered the fire, but H sustained severe burns on her whole upper body. Defendant was arrested, and H changed her testimony at trial, saying it was just an accident and that she still loved him.

Procedural History:

Defendant was convicted of attempted murder and aggravated battery after the jury was instructed that attempted murder was when one did "any act which constitutes a substantial step toward the commission of the offense of murder," and that murder had four possible culpable mental states, which were listed.

At sentencing, the two offenses were merged, and defendant was sentenced to 45 years' imprisonment.

Issue:

Was the jury properly instructed on attempted murder?

Rule:

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[A] finding of specific intent to kill is a necessary element of the crime of attempt murder.

Reasoning:

Attempted murder requires a specific intent to kill. The alternative mental states usually applicable to murder are not sufficient for attempted murder.

Holding:

No, the jury should not have been informed about the other possible mental states of murder. Reversed and remanded for a new trial.

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