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Mayes v. People - 106 Ill. 306 (1883)


Malice is an indispensable element to the crime of murder. But the statute, repeating the common law rule, says malice shall be implied when no considerable provocation appears, or when all the circumstances of the killing show an abandoned and malignant heart. Ill. Rev. Stat. p. 374, § 140. (1874). When an action, unlawful in itself, is done with deliberation, and with intention of mischief or great bodily harm to particulars, or of mischief indiscriminately, falls where it may, and death ensues, against or beside the original intention of the party, it will be murder


Defendant threw a beer glass against a lighted oil lamp that his wife was carrying. The lamp broke, the burning oil splattered on her, and she burned to death. defendant's daughter and mother-in-law witnessed the tragedy. Defendant was convicted by the circuit court of the crime of murder. He was sentenced to the penitentiary for the term of his natural life. He brought a writ of error and claimed he only meant to throw the glass out an open door. The supreme court affirmed the  conviction.


Was malice attendant thus supporting defendant's conviction of murder?




The court determined that the facts proved constituted murder. The jury did not err in believing defendant's mother-in-law and daughter and disbelieving his version of the events. The court concluded that even if defendant did not intend to strike his wife with the glass, he manifested a reckless murderous disposition and a heart void of social duty sufficient to satisfy the intent requirement. He may have intended some other result, but he was responsible for the actual result. Defendant, while fatally bent on mischief acted solely from general malicious recklessness, disregarding any and all consequences. A strong man who violently threw a heavy beer glass in a direction that he must have known could probably hit his wife, sufficiently manifested malice in general to render his act murderous when death was the consequence of it.

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