Criminal Law, Pages 246–249

Commonwealth v. Carroll

Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, 1963

Facts:

Defendant was was a former army officer who resigned to live with his wife. His wife suffered from schizoid personality type, partially due to an injury sustained after jumping out of a car while arguing with defendant. Defendant was selected to go attend an electronics school for nine days, which greatly angered his wife, so he left a loaded pistol at the head of their bed for her self-protection while he was gone.

When defendant returned, he told her that was assigned a teaching position which required him to be gone for 28 out of the next 70 days. A violent argument ensued until four in the morning. As defendant got more and more angry, he thought of the gun, grabbed it, and shot his wife twice in the back of her head while she slept, killing her. He then dumped his wife's body, took their children to his parents', and was arrested at work the next Monday.

Procedural History:

Trial court found defendant guilty of first degree murder.

Issue:

Did defendant premeditate to kill his wife?

Rule:

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"Whether the intention to kill and the killing, that is, the premeditation and the fatal act, were within a brief space of time or a long space of time is immaterial if the killing was in fact intentional, wilful, deliberate and premeditated."

Reasoning:

It does not matter how little time defendant had to premeditate his wife's murder. Nor does the fact that he had no plan of what to do afterwards negate premeditation. Despite testimony that defendant felt trapped by his situation and acted out of "rage," "desperation," and "panic," this testimony does not have to be believed, especially as these are largely based on statements made by the defendant and partially shown to be false. Defendant's actions contradict such a portrait.

Holding:

Yes, defendant premeditated to kill his wife, even if only instantaneously. Affirmed.

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