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A first degree murder conviction premised upon premeditation and deliberation requires more than a showing of the intent to kill; it requires evidence from which reasonable jurors can infer that the killing is the result of the defendant's preexisting thought and reflection.
Defendant Benjamin James Boatman, shot his girlfriend, Rebecca Marth, in the face, killing her. During an interview with the homicide detectives, defendant said that he knew that the gun was loaded but that the shooting was an accident. At trial, he argued that although he was criminally negligent, he did not commit murder. A jury convicted him of first-degree murder. On appeal, defendant contended that the evidence was insufficient to support the conviction for first-degree murder.
The Court of Appeal modified the judgment to reduce the first-degree murder conviction to second-degree murder, holding that the evidence was sufficient to find that defendant killed the victim with malice aforethought but not that the killing occurred with premeditation and deliberation. Defendant told interviewing officers that he knew the gun was loaded and intentionally cocked the hammer back, albeit jokingly, and the hammer slipped, causing the gun to fire and kill the victim. That evidence supported a finding of implied malice, but there was nothing in defendant's statements, which were the only evidence of his intent, to indicate that he considered shooting the victim beforehand or carefully weighed considerations for and against killing her. Premeditation and deliberation were not established by the fact that defendant's statements regarding the shooting were inconsistent in significant respects. Applying the Anderson factors, the court found that there was no evidence of planning; after the shooting, defendant did not behave like someone who had fulfilled a preconceived plan, but rather was horrified and distraught; and there was no relevant motive evidence. The manner of killing, shooting the victim in the face, was not alone sufficient to establish a preconceived design to take the victim's life.