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While a person may be guilty of murder though there was no actual intent to kill, a person cannot be guilty of an attempt to commit murder unless he or she has a specific intent to kill.
Demetrius D. Baldwin appealed from the judgment of the Court of Appeals of Virginia, which affirmed his conviction in the Circuit Court of Chesterfield County for attempted murder in violation of Code §§ 18.2-32 and 18.2-26. Baldwin argued that there was insufficient evidence to prove that he had the specific intent to kill the victim, a police officer, as required for an attempted murder conviction.
Was the evidence sufficient to prove the necessary intent to kill to support a conviction for attempted murder?
The court found that the Commonwealth failed to meet its burden of proving that Baldwin acted with the specific intent to kill the officer. The evidence showed that Baldwin turned his car into traffic in order to flee while the officer was standing toward the rear of the vehicle and slightly behind the driver's side door. There was no evidence that Baldwin aimed his vehicle directly at the officer or otherwise had any intent to inflict bodily harm on the officer, much less that he had formed the intent to murder the officer. The officer's own testimony indicated that even if he had not pushed away from Baldwin’s vehicle, the vehicle would at most have struck his feet. When viewed in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth, the evidence did not support a conclusion that Baldwin possessed the requisite specific intent to kill the officer. The facts better supported the conclusion that Baldwin was attempting to escape.