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Law School Case Brief

People v. Van Ronk - 171 Cal. App. 3d 818, 217 Cal. Rptr. 581 (1985)

Rule:

There is nothing illogical or absurd in a finding that a person who unsuccessfully attempted to kill another did so with the intent to kill which was formed in a heat of passion or which arose out of an honest but unreasonable belief in the necessity of self-defense. Under those circumstances, the less culpable person is guilty of attempted voluntary manslaughter rather than attempted murder.

Facts:

Defendant Joseph Edward Van Ronk was convicted by a jury of attempted voluntary manslaughter, a lesser included offense within the charge of attempted murder. The jury further found that defendant personally used a firearm in the commission of the offense, and that he intentionally inflicted great bodily injury upon the victim. Defendant was sentenced to a total unstayed prison term of six years.

Issue:

Was defendant’s conviction of attempted voluntary manslaughter a logical and legal absurdity that could not exist as a crime?

Answer:

No

Conclusion:

The court affirmed defendant's conviction, holding that attempted voluntary manslaughter did exist as a crime. The court found that it was possible for defendant to form the intent to kill while in the heat of passion, which was the same intent necessary for the crime of attempt. And this is true regardless of whether he is successful or unsuccessful in carrying out his intent.  There is nothing illogical or absurd in a finding that a person who unsuccessfully attempted to kill another did so with the intent to kill which was formed in a heat of passion or which arose out of an honest but unreasonable belief in the necessity of self-defense. 

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