When a statute makes an offense to consist of an act combined with a particular intent, that intent is just as necessary to be proved as the act itself, and must be found as a matter of fact before a conviction can be had; and no intent in law or mere legal presumption, differing from the intent in fact, can be allowed to supply the place of the latter. The act must be done with the specific intent to commit a particular crime. This specific intent at the time the act is done is essential. To do an act from general malevolence is not an attempt to commit a crime, because there is no specific intent, though the act according to its consequences may amount to a substantive crime. To do an act with intent to commit one crime cannot be an attempt to commit another crime though it might result in such other crime.
A man was convicted for attempted murder after a shot that he fired at a lamp, which was placed on the head of a bed, almost hit a woman and her child. This was despite the fact that the defendant alleged that the evidence failed to show that he fired a shot with the intention of murdering anyone. The case was appealed to the Supreme Court of Virginia.
Was the evidence strong enough to prove that there was intent to murder?
The court held that while it might possibly be said that the firing of the shot into the head of the bed was an act done towards the commission of the offense charged, the evidence fell far short of proving that it was fired with the intent to murder the woman. Because attempted murder was an offense consisting of an act combined with a particular intent, the intent had to be proved just as the act itself had to be proved. As such, the court held that the verdict was erroneous and ordered a new trial.