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Intentional Murder (Second Degree)

Case: Francis v. Franklin, 471 U.S. 307 (1985) [p. 325-328]

Facts: Franklin was a prisoner. On a visit to the dentist's office, he managed to escape, taking an officer's
loaded gun, and the dentist's assistant as hostage. He also took dentist's car keys, but was unable to unlock the
door. So he began looking for someone to give them the keys and car for him to get away. He went to victim's
(Collie) door, and gun pointing at Collie, asked for his car keys. Collie slammed the door shut, and Franklin's
gun accidently went off, and the bullet went through the door, into the victim's chest, killing him. He also
threatened a few others, but when they didn’t give him what he'd asked, he just let them go (idea is that he
didn’t actually intend to kill anyone, just trying to get away).
o Jury instruction stated in part: "The acts of a person of sound mind and discretion are presumed to be
the product of a person's will, but the presumption may be rebutted. A person of sound mind and
discretion is presumed to intend the natural and probable consequences of his acts, but the
presumption may be rebutted."

Holding: Court says the jury instruction was basically telling the jury that it was required to infer intent to kill
as the natural and probable consequence of the act of firing the gun, unless the Δ persuaded the jury that such an
inference was unwarranted. So, it shifted the burden to the Δ, which is unconstitutional. It relieves the
government of its burden of proof. However, it would be ok for jury to be instructed that they are permitted (not
required) to infer the intent from the natural and probable consequences of the act - but you can't mandate it.

Class Notes

During events following defendant's taking of a hostage and escape from custody, a shot he fired killed an
individual on the other side of a closed door. Defendant denied firing the shot voluntarily or intentionally and
claimed that shots were fired in accidental response to the slamming of the door.
• Unconstitutional - mandatory presumptions no good, because it relieves government of their burden of
• But, constitutional to have a permissible inference
o Although constitutional, probably unfair. Good jury instruction will be very neutral.


Notes: [p. 328-330]

• The Meaning of Intent

o MPC § 210.2(1)(a) - purposeful and knowing homicides are classified as murder. Under MPC
2.02, purposeful and knowing refer to the actor's subjective state of mind. So, you can't presume
that a person intends the natural and probable consequences of his acts. However, the requisite
mens rea can be proven via circumstantial evidence, and a finding of purpose or knowledge may
be a permissible inference from the conduct and circumstances.
• Transferred intent
o If Δ purposefully shoots to kill A, but misses and kills B, Δ is guilty of intentionally killing B. Δ
intent to kill A is transferred to his unintended killing of B.