The fact that repeated blows (or shots) were inflicted on the victim is not sufficient, by itself, to establish first-degree murder. Repeated blows can be delivered in the heat of passion, with no design or reflection. Only if such blows are inflicted as the result of premeditation and deliberation can they be said to prove first-degree murder.
Defendant argued that premeditation was not shown, that adequate weight was not given to the fact that the child's mother was in the home at the time of the child's death, and that the child had sustained injuries in the past while the mother had sole custody.
Was the mother liable for first-degree murder by excessively chastising the child?
The court noted that the question of relative criminal responsibility for the child's death was essentially one of credibility for the jury's determination. The court held, however, that although defendant failed to establish insanity as an absolute defense to homicide, his mental state was nevertheless relevant to the charge of first-degree murder to the extent that it related to the necessary elements of that offense. The court found that there was no evidence in the record that in causing his son's death, defendant acted with the premeditation and deliberation required to establish first-degree murder. The court determined that the evidence supported only the conclusion that defendant intended not to kill his son but to further abuse him or that his intent, if it was to kill the child, was developed in a drunken, heated, rage while disciplining the child, which would only have amounted to second-degree murder.