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Criminal Jury Instructions

Criminal Jury Instructions Home

5.1 Introduction to Murder and Manslaughter

Revised to December 1, 2007

Intent
Murder and intentional manslaughter are specific intent crimes.  State v. Prioleau, 235 Conn. 274, 322 (1995) ("defendant must have had the conscious objective to cause the death of the victim"); State v. Harris, 49 Conn. App. 121, 128 (1998) (the intent required for intentional manslaughter is the intent to cause serious physical injury).  The statutory definition of intent in General Statutes § 53a-3 (11) is applicable to murder and intentional manslaughter only so far as it refers to intent to cause a result, NOT intent to engage in proscribed conduct.  State v. Austin, 244 Conn. 226, 235-36 (1998); State v. Maia, 48 Conn. App. 677, 685-88, cert. denied, 245 Conn. 918 (1998).

Reckless indifference manslaughter, manslaughter in the second degree, and criminally negligent homicide are general intent crimes.  State v. Edwards, 214 Conn. 57, 67 (1990) (reckless indifference manslaughter); State v. Hallowell, 61 Conn. App. 463, 467 (2001) (reckless indifference manslaughter); State v. Sotomayor, 61 Conn. App. 364, 380, appeal dismissed, 260 Conn. 179, cert. denied, 537 U.S. 922, 123 S.Ct. 313, 154 L.Ed.2d 212 (2002) (manslaughter in the first degree and manslaughter in the second degree are distinguished by the level of recklessness). 

Intoxication
Intoxication is relevant to the defendant's capacity to form a specific intent.  State v. Rivera, 223 Conn. 41, 50 (1992).  It does not apply to general intent crimes.  State v. Austin, 244 Conn. 226, 239 (1998).  If the jury is instructed on lesser included offenses of general intent and on intoxication, this distinction must be made clear.

See Intoxication, Instruction 2.7-1, and its commentary. 

Simultaneous intent
A defendant may simultaneously intend to cause death and intend to cause serious physical injury, justifying convictions of both attempted murder and intentional assault for the same act against the same victim.  State v. Murray, 254 Conn. 472, 479-83 (2000); State v. Williams, 237 Conn. 748, 754-57 (1996).

Transferred intent
"[T]he principle of 'transferred intent' was created to apply to the situation of an accused who intended to kill a certain person and by mistake killed another.  His intent is transposed from the person to whom it was directed to the person actually killed."  State v. Hinton, 227 Conn. 301, 306 n.8 (1993).  When multiple victims die as the result of the defendant's actions, the fact that the defendant only intended to kill one of them does not prevent that intent from being "transferred" to all of the victims; i.e., the unintended deaths are not reduced to manslaughter as long as the defendant had the intent to kill someone.  Id., 306-11.  The doctrine of transferred intent does not logically apply to attempted murder.  Id., 317.

Lesser Included Offenses
"Lesser included offense instructions are frequently appropriate in cases when the defendant is charged with murder."  (Internal quotation marks omitted.)  State v. Smith, 262 Conn. 453, 470 (2003).  "[T]he critical element distinguishing murder from its lesser included offenses is intent, often the most significant and, at the same time, the most elusive element of the crime charged."  (Internal quotation marks omitted.)  Id.  "If the evidence suggests at least a possibility that the defendant acted with a lesser intent than that of the specific intent to kill," the defendant is entitled to a lesser included offense instruction.  (Internal quotation marks omitted.)  Id. 

"[I]nherent in a trial court's decision to charge on lesser included offenses is a finding that the defendant's state of mind may fall within one of many requisite mental states.  Therefore, the trial court's charge on lesser included offenses, which occurs prior to the jury's deliberations, merely informs the consciousness of the jurors that the defendant's particular state of mind at the time he committed the crime may fall within one of many requisite mental states and that each requisite mental state serves as an element for a distinct crime."  State v. Tomlin, 266 Conn. 608, 639 (2003) (finding error in court's refusal to instruct on manslaughter in the second degree and criminally negligent homicide).

"Permitting the jury to find the defendant guilty of a lesser charge of homicide than that charged, where the evidence supports such a finding, does not violate the defendant's sixth amendment right to notice.  By the charge on the greater offense of murder, the defendant is put on notice that he will be put on trial for his action in causing the death of another person.  Thus, having been given notice of the most serious degree of culpable intent by the murder indictment, he is implicitly given notice of those lesser included homicides that require a less serious degree of culpable intent."  State v. Rodriguez, 180 Conn. 382, 405 (1980). 

With a firearm
Manslaughter in the first degree or second degree with a firearm is a lesser included offense of murder only when the allegations in the charging documents include the use of a firearm.  State v. Falcon, 26 Conn. App. 259, 266 (1991), cert. denied, 221 Conn. 911 (1992).

Applicability of self-defense to lesser included offenses
Self-defense is applicable to the lesser included offenses of manslaughter in the first degree, manslaughter in the second degree, and criminally negligent homicide.  State v. Harrison, 32 Conn. App. 687, 695, cert. denied, 227 Conn. 932 (1993).  Self-defense is not incompatible with a charge of manslaughter in the second degree.  "Conduct may be a 'gross deviation from the standard of conduct that a reasonable person would observe in the situation'; General Statutes § 53a-3 (13); but, at the same time, may be wholly justified if the defendant's beliefs are reasonable from the perspective of that defendant."  State v. Hall, 213 Conn. 579, 586 (1990). 

Defenses

Extreme emotional disturbance
General Statutes § 53a-54a (a) provides in pertinent part that "it shall be an affirmative defense that the defendant committed the proscribed act or acts under the influence of extreme emotional disturbance for which there was a reasonable explanation or excuse, the reasonableness of which is to be determined from the viewpoint of a person in the defendant's situation under the circumstances as the defendant believed them to be, provided nothing contained in this subsection shall constitute a defense to a prosecution for, or preclude conviction of, manslaughter in the first degree or any other crime."  See Affirmative Defense of Extreme Emotional Disturbance, Instruction 5.2-1. 

Self-defense
See Self-Defense and Defense of Others, Instruction 2.8-1. 

Intoxication
"Intoxication is not a defense to murder, but is relevant to the capacity to form specific intent."  (Internal quotation marks omitted.)  State v. Rivera, supra, 223 Conn. 50.  

Attempt
"Manslaughter committed without an intent to cause the death of another . . . is analogous to . . . involuntary manslaughter."  (Citations omitted.)  State v. Almeda, 189 Conn. 303, 308 (1983).  There is no logic to attempting to commit involuntary manslaughter, hence attempted manslaughter is not a cognizable crime.  Id., 309. 

Accessorial liability
Accessory to manslaughter is a cognizable crime.  State v. Harris, supra, 49 Conn. App. 128-29.
 


 

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