State v. Casey

The Facts

Defendant was involved with another woman.  He went to this woman’s house along with another friend and consumed alcohol.  Defendant drove his friend and girlfriend to a liquor store and bought a bottle, where defendant consumed most of the bottle.  Defendant became drunk and belligerent and began arguing with his girlfriend, threatening to kill her as he laughed at her.  They drove to a friend’s house, where the defendant and his girlfriend argued again in the car once they were alone.  When girlfriend asked defendant if he was ready to go home he took out a gun, pointed it at her neck, and said “fuck you bitch.  I’m going to take you home alright.”  On the drive home, where their friend had rejoined them both, defendant and girlfriend began arguing again; and the defendant pulled out the gun again and pointed it at her head.  Both girlfriend and friend testified they heard a click of the gun.  He then pointed the gun at girlfriend’s feet and the gun fired, hitting the floor.  Girlfriend then jumped out of the moving car, upon which defendant continued to fire the weapon at his girlfriend, missing.

Procedural History

Defendant convicted at trial of attempted murder.  On appeal, defendant argued the jury was improperly instructed as to attempted murder, claiming that they were incorrectly instructed that attempted murder required the mental state of “intentionally or knowingly.”  He argues that he cannot be convicted of attempted murder based solely on a “knowing” mental state.

The Issue

“Whether a conviction for attempted murder may rest upon a knowing mental state rather than an intentional mental state.”

The Rule

Conviction for attempted murder must satisfy the elements of the murder statute, “with the obvious exception that the murder need not be completed.”  To act intentionally one acts “when it is his conscious objective or desire to engage in the conduct or cause of the result.”  Knowingly:  “when he is aware of the nature of his conduct or the existing circumstances and aware that his conduct is reasonably certain to cause the result.”  To convict the defendant must “engage in conduct constituting a substantial step toward commission of the offense.”  It does not constitute a substantial step “unless it is strongly corroborative of the actor’s intent to commit the offense.”


No, but conviction upheld.  Attempted murder requires proof of intent and knowledge alone is insufficient.  It is possible to attempt murder knowingly, but not intentionally.  “For example, a person may know that blowing up a building will cause the death of people inside, but if his or her intent or conscious objective is only to destroy the building, the intent element is unsatisfied.”  The court had previously held that “the word intent as used in the attempt statute should be read to mean a conscious objective or desire.  This meaning of the work obviously is distinguishable from the word knowledge of the proscribed conduct or result, which is the mental state required for depraved indifference homicide.” In other words the defendant must have a conscious objective to murder the victim. However, defendant’s conduct demonstrates intent.  “No reasonable jury could have concluded that he acted knowingly without also concluding that he acted intentionally.”


Model Penal Code does not require a “knowing” element for attempted murder.  The attempt must be intentional. “When… a person actually believes that his behavior will produce the proscribed result, it is appropriate to treat him as attempting to cause the result, whether or not that is his purpose.”

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