State v. Myers

The Facts

Upon seeing his wife leave a tavern with two men defendant struck his wife with multiple blows.  The defendant commanded that his wife jump into a river; and upon doing so, she drowned.  At trial defendant argued that her entry into the water was “intentional and in compliance with his order but … she slipped or fell.”  There was no evidence suggesting that she would be harmed or killed if she refused to jump in the water.  Prior to ordering her to jump in the water, defendant spanked his wife for disciplinary purposes.  Defendant did state that if he told his wife that if she did not jump in, he would push her in.  Moreover, his wife could not swim.

Procedural History

The state argued that his wife jumped into the river as a result of defendant’s assault, which “constituted well-grounded fear and apprehension on her part, and that the death amounted to a willful, deliberate and premeditated killing.”  The court denied the state’s case because there was no intent to kill.


“A person who kills an individual without lawful justification commits murder if, in performing the acts which cause the death: (1) he either intends to kill or do great bodily harm to that individual or another, or knows that such acts will cause death to that individual or another, or (2) he knows that such acts create a strong probability of death or great bodily harm to that individual or another, or (3) he is attempting or committing a forcible felony other than voluntary manslaughter.”

The Issue

Whether given the stated facts, there is enough evidence to show intent to kill, where the evidence suggests the defendant merely ordered the victim to do an activity which resulted in her death.

The Holding/Reasoning

Yes.  The series of assaults and violence perpetrated on the victim evidence an intent beyond mere “spanking.”  His actions were not disciplinarian.  There is nothing in the record to suggest his fit of rage, according the evidence of the series of events, had the intent of correcting her behavior.  His intent was to assault the victim.  His behavior “smacks rather of a preconceived scheme to bring about her death in a manner which would still give him an opportunity to deny full responsibility if he could find a jury gullible enough to agree with him.”  The fact that the defendant knew his wife could not swim in addition to his knowledge that the tide was high suggests his forcing her entry into the water substantiates his intent to harm or kill her.

Leave a Reply