First-degree murder is the intentional and unlawful killing of a human being with malice and with premeditation and deliberation. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-17 (1981 and Cum. Supp. 1985). Premeditation means that the act was thought out beforehand for some length of time, however short, but no particular amount of time is necessary for the mental process of premeditation. Deliberation means an intent to kill, carried out in a cool state of blood, in furtherance of a fixed design for revenge or to accomplish an unlawful purpose and not under the influence of a violent passion, suddenly aroused by lawful or just cause or legal provocation. The phrase "cool state of blood" means that the defendant's anger or emotion must not have been such as to overcome his reason.
Defendant admitted to shooting his critically ill father after admitting him to a hospital but contended that the facts negated the element of malice. The court held that the trial court did not err in denying defendant's motion for a directed verdict on the murder charge because there was substantial evidence that the killing was premeditated and deliberate. The court also found, upon consideration of the totality of the circumstances, that the trial court's inquiry and instructions about deliberating toward a verdict were not coercive and did not deny defendant a fair trial.
Was sufficient evidence of premeditation and deliberation presented at the trial?
The court held that there was substantial evidence that the killing was premeditated and deliberate and that the trial court did not err in submitting to the jury the question of defendant's guilt of first-degree murder based upon premeditation and deliberation. Here, many of the circumstances that have been held to establish a factual basis for a finding of premeditation and deliberation are present. It is clear, for example, that the seriously ill deceased did nothing to provoke defendant's action. Moreover, the deceased was lying helpless in a hospital bed when defendant shot him four separate times. In addition, defendant's revolver was a five-shot single-action gun which had to be cocked each time before it could be fired. Interestingly, although defendant testified that he always carried the gun in his job as a truck driver, he was not working on the day in question but carried the gun to the hospital nonetheless.