Thank You For Submiting Feedback!
Recommended Ariz. Criminal Jury Instruction 11.051 provides: Premeditation means that the defendant's intention or knowledge exists before the killing long enough to permit reflection. However, the reflection differs from the intent or knowledge that conduct will cause death. It may be as instantaneous as successive thoughts in the mind, and it may be proven by circumstantial evidence. It is this period of reflection, regardless of its length, which distinguishes first-degree murder from intentional or knowing second-degree murder. An act is not done with premeditation if it is the instant effect of a sudden quarrel or heat of passion.
David Ramirez walked up to the victim, who resembled his brother who Ramirez had an earlier fight with, and shot him. The jury instruction stated that premeditation could have been instantaneous and that it required a period of reflection of no particular length of time. The jury found Ramirez guilty of first degree murder. His defense was that he had acted without premeditation and was therefore guilty of the lesser offense of second degree murder.
Does the case involve a premeditated killing?
The court reversed and remanded Ramirez’ conviction. The court reasoned that the legislature, in Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 13-1101(1) (1978), intended no significant change in the law regarding premeditation. It found that defining premeditation as a length of time obliterated any meaningful difference between first and second-degree murder. Since the penalties were significantly different, the court reasoned that the legislature intended an equally significant difference between the two degrees of murder. Premeditation had to be understood as reflection and must describe something that defendant actually did, it could not just have been an instant of time. Substantial evidence supported defendant's claim that he acted without impulsively and without premeditation and the court found that beyond a reasonable doubt the error did contribute significantly to the guilty verdict.