Wash. Rev. Code § 9A.32.050(1)(a), the second-degree murder statute, requires for conviction intent to cause the death of another person, but without premeditation. Wash. Rev. Code § 9A.32.020(1) states that premeditation must involve more than a moment in point of time. Washington case law further defines premeditation as the mental process of thinking beforehand, deliberation, reflection, weighing or reasoning for a period of time, however short. Premeditation may be shown by direct or circumstantial evidence.
A trial court convicted a man for aggravated first degree murder for strangling a mentally retarded woman while raping her. On appeal, the appellate court found that the evidence was insufficient to convict of first degree murder and reversed the judgment against defendant. It remanded the case for him to be resentenced for second-degree murder. The case was appealed by the State to the Supreme Court of Washington.
Should the accused be convicted for aggravated first degree murder?
The court found that manual strangulation alone was insufficient evidence to support a finding of premeditation. The court concluded that to allow a finding of premeditation only because the act took an appreciable amount of time obliterated the distinction between first-degree murder and second-degree murder. The court determined that the evidence of premeditation was not sufficient to sustain a finding of a premeditated killing because no evidence was presented of deliberation or reflection before or during the strangulation.