United States v. Fleming

739 F.2d 945 (4th Cir. 1984)

 

RULE:

Malice may be established by evidence of conduct which is reckless and wanton and a gross deviation from a reasonable standard of care, of such a nature that a jury is warranted in inferring that defendant was aware of a serious risk of death or serious bodily harm.

FACTS:

 The defendant was tried and convicted of second-degree murder, pursuant to 18 U.S.C.S. § 1111. The evidence showed that he was driving at an excessive rate of speed, at some points 100 miles per hour and at times going southbound in the northbound lanes. A woman driving northbound was killed when her car collided with the defendant's. The defendant sought review, arguing that the evidence was insufficient to support the malice aforethought requirement for a murder conviction. The court disagreed and affirmed the conviction.

ISSUE:

Are the facts inadequate to establish the existence of malice aforethought, and thus should defendant  have been convicted of manslaughter instead?

ANSWER:

No.

CONCLUSION:

The court disagreed and affirmed the conviction because malice aforethought could be and was in this case shown by conduct which was reckless and wanton and a gross deviation from a reasonable standard of care and which warranted the jury's inference that the defendant was aware of a serious risk of death or serious bodily harm. The court also determined that the trial court's instructions to the jury were sufficient and that it was not error to admit the defendant's driving record.

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