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The crime of malice murder is committed when the evidence shows either an express or, in the alternative, an implied intent to commit an unlawful homicide. This meaning of malice murder is consistent with the general rule that crimes which are defined so as to require that a defendant intentionally cause a forbidden bad result, are usually interpreted to cover one who knows that his conduct is substantially certain to cause the result, whether or not he desires the result to occur. Thus, a malice murder can be shown not only by evidence that the defendant acted with the deliberate intention unlawfully to take the life of another human being which is manifested by external circumstances capable of proof, but also by evidence that the defendant acted where no considerable provocation appears and where all the circumstances of the killing show an abandoned and malignant heart. In other words, evidence that the defendant acted with implied malice is, for purposes of demonstrating his guilt of the crime of malice murder, no less probative than proof that he acted with a specific intent to kill.
Defendant was convicted of malice murder and aggravated battery in connection with the death of the victim. He appealed, asserting, inter alia, that the trial court erred in permitting the State to introduce in evidence the pleadings filed in a civil lawsuit brought by defendant against the victim and others on grounds that said documents were privileged.
Did the trial court err in permitting the State to introduce in evidence the pleadings filed in a civil lawsuit brought by defendant against the victim?
The defendant’s conviction was affirmed. While it was true that the allegations set forth in official court documents were privileged, this privilege was designed to foster the judicial process and protect the public welfare by shielding litigants from liability or prosecution. The privilege had no application where, as here, the allegations set forth in the documents were introduced to show the motive or state of mind of a criminal defendant. Further, defendant was not entitled to a mistrial, as the prosecutor's objections and the trial court's admonishments took issue with defendant's statements and conduct in a fair, objective and unbiased manner. Moreover, the court did not employ any measure which compromised the jury's ability to remain impartial.