Murder is the unlawful killing of a human being with malice aforethought. Pen. Code, § 187, subd. (a). Malice is implied when the circumstances of the killing show it was done with an abandoned and malignant heart. Pen. Code, § 188. Implied malice requires that the defendant act with a wanton disregard of the high probability of death. The facts must demonstrate the defendant had a subjective awareness of the risk. It is not enough that a reasonable person would have been aware of the risk.
A driver drove 70 miles per hour in a 35-mile-per-hour zone. He ran a red light and collided with another car which in turn hit another car. The accident causes death to one victim and serious injury to another. The trial court issued a murder conviction, among others, based on implied malice as supported by substantial evidence even though the driver was not under the influence, and was not the object of a pursuit. The defendant, however, contended that the murder conviction is not supported by substantial evidence, and that the trial court erred in admitting evidence of a prior conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol. The case was appealed to the Court of Appeals of California.
Did the Court properly convict Moore of murder?
The court concluded that defendant's second degree murder conviction based on implied malice was supported by substantial evidence. Defendant's actions went well beyond gross negligence. Defendant acted with wanton disregard of the near certainty that someone would be killed. It took no leap of logic for the jury to conclude that because anyone would be aware of the risk of death, defendant was aware of the risk. A properly instructed jury found implied malice. Under all the circumstances, the finding was reasonable. The trial court did not err in allowing defendant's prior conviction for driving while intoxicated into evidence. The jury could reasonably conclude that defendant's prior conviction put him on notice of the consequences of driving with extreme recklessnes.