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To prove a conspiracy evidence of an express agreement is not necessary. A conspiracy is rarely susceptible of proof by direct evidence. Therefore, a conspiracy can be proved by direct evidence that discloses a common design by two or more persons. Or it can be proved by circumstantial evidence. However, circumstantial evidence that will support a conviction for conspiracy, as is true of circumstantial evidence generally, must be such that the conclusion drawn from it excludes every reasonable hypothesis other than guilt. A conspiracy cannot be proved by mere suspicion, mere relationship of the defendants or association of the parties charged.
In a jury trial, defendant was found guilty of conspiracy to murder five persons. In furtherance of the conspiracy, it was charged that defendant and the two others intentionally discharged firearms in the direction of an automobile with intent to kill or do great bodily harm to the occupants of the automobile. He contended that the evidence failed to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that he was guilty of the conspiracy charged in the indictment. He had been acquitted of attempted murder.
Did the evidence prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that defendant was guilty of the conspiracy charged in the indictment?
The court reversed and held that the offense in the conspiracy count was a specific intent crime. To sustain a conviction for conspiracy, the object of the conspiracy had to be proved as stated in the indictment. Since the object of the conspiracy, according to the charge, was the murder of five named persons, the state had to prove that when defendant fired a gun in the direction of the automobile in which the five were riding, he did so with knowledge that the purported victims were in the car. The state failed to prove that defendant knew the victim named in the indictment, could recognize his automobile, and shot at him that evening. It also had to prove the defendant, as a conspirator, had knowledge of the named victim's four companions and shot at the named victim's automobile with intent to murder them, too.