State v. Utter

4 Wash. App. 137, 479 P.2d 946 (1971)



There are two components of every crime. One is objective -- the actus reus; the other subjective -- the mens rea. The actus reus is the culpable act itself, the mens rea is the criminal intent with which one performs the criminal act. However, the mens rea does not encompass the entire mental process of one accused of a crime. There is a certain minimal mental element required in order to establish the actus reus itself. This is the element of volition.


The defendant's son was seen entering his father's apartment. Shortly after, he was seen stumbling in the hallway of the apartment building where he collapsed, having been stabbed in the chest. Before he died, he stated that his father had stabbed him. The trial court entered a judgment of conviction against the father for manslaughter instead of murder because the father was intoxicated at the time of the offense. The case was appealed to the Court of Appeals.


Is actus reus a requisite element to be convicted of murder?




The court affirmed the decision of the trial court. The court held that the evidence of defendant's intoxication was such that it negated his ability to form criminal intent to murder. The court held, however, the intent was not an element of manslaughter. The court therefore ruled that the trial court was correct in submitting this case, and not murder, against defendant.

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