Criminal Law, Pages 240–243

State v. Guthrie

Supreme Court of Appeals of Wisconsin, 1995


The victim, his brother, and friend were joking around at the kitchen they worked at, and the victim was poking fun at defendant to "lighten [him] up." He snapped him with a dishtowel several times, unknowingly upsetting defendant. When the towel hit defendant in the nose, he removed his gloves and started walking towards the victim, who continued joking, "Ooo, he's taking his gloves off." Defendant then pulled a knife from his pocket and stabbed the victim in the neck and arm, killing him. Before he died, the victim cried that he was just kidding around.

The police arrived, and defendant calmly confessed to the killing. Defendant suffered from daily panic attacks, depression, an obsession with his nose, and borderline personality disorder.

Procedural History:

The jury returned a verdict finding defendant guilty of first degree murder after being instructed that being "premeditated" only required an intent to kill to "come into existence for the first time at the time of such killing, or at any time previously."


Did defendant premeditate his killing of the victim?


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Deliberation and premeditation mean to reflect upon the intent to kill and make a deliberate choice to carry it out. Although no particular amount of time is required, there must be at least a sufficient period to permit the accused to actually consider in his or her mind the plan to kill.


Allowing premeditation and deliberation to be proven by showing that the intention came "into existence for the first time at the time of such killing" completely eliminates the distinction between first and second degree murder. Premeditation requires that defendant considered his decision to kill and went through with it despite this. Any other intentional killing is second degree murder because it is spontaneous and nonreflective. The jury instruction should have stated this instead.


No, it was not proven that defendant premeditated his killing of the victim. Reversed and remanded.