"Malice means ill will, hatred, spite, an evil intent."
Young v. State
Defendant hit her seven-year-old son with an electrical cord, leaving bruises around his torso, after he stole a dollar from her and threw a joy stick at her. She was then arrested and charged with aggravated child abuse.
The trial court instructed the jury to find defendant guilty if she maliciously punished her minor child and defined maliciously as "wrongfully, intentionally, without legal justification or excuse." The jury found defendant guilty as charged.
Defendant moved for a new trial and was denied.
Was the definition of malice given to the jury prejudicially erroneous?
The trial court incorrectly instructed the jury regarding the meaning of "maliciously."
The given jury instruction is the definition of legal malice. However, the courts have held that actual malice is required here, as held in Gaylord. This is a different standard under which the jury may have concluded that defendant had not acted maliciously. The jury instructions should have been updated accordingly.
Yes, the definition of malice given was prejudicially erroneous. Reversed and remanded for new trial.