Three categories of evidence are pertinent to the determination of premeditation and deliberation: (1) planning activity, (2) motive, and (3) manner of killing. Regarding these categories, analysis of the cases will show that courts sustain verdicts of first degree murder typically when there is evidence of all three types and otherwise requires at least extremely strong evidence of (1) or evidence of (2) in conjunction with either (1) or (3). These are a catalog of common factors that occurred in prior cases. The factors, while helpful for purposes of review, are not a sine qua non to finding first degree premeditated murder, nor are they exclusive.
After a trial, the jury convicted defendant of first degree, premeditated and deliberate murder. Defendant sought review of his conviction, and a divided appellate court reduced his conviction from first to second degree murder. The state sought review of the appellate court’s judgment for insufficient evidence of premeditation and deliberation. The state supreme court reversed the judgment.
Was the appellate court correct when it reduced defendant’s first degree murder conviction to second degree murder for insufficient evidence of premeditation and deliberation?
There was sufficient evidence in the record to support the jury's finding of premeditation and deliberation beyond a reasonable doubt because defendant obtained a knife from the kitchen, the victim was acquainted with defendant and could identify him, and defendant went searching for another knife after he broke the first one. Furthermore, the evidence did not give rise to instruct sua sponte on the provocation that would reduce first degree murder to second degree murder because there was no evidence of provocation in the record.