March 31, 2020

United States v. Fleming | Case Brief Law Student - 739 F.2d 945 (1984) US 4th Circuit 1984

FACTS: Defendant was driving his car at speed between 70-100 mph and weaving in and out of oncoming traffic. At one point he lost control of his car hit the curb and crashed into the victim's car which was coming in the opposite direction. The victim died and the Defendant was found to have blood alcohol level (BAL) of .315 percent. 

HISTORY: Defendant convicted of 2nd degree murder. 

ISSUE: Did the facts establish malice aforethought required for a murder conviction? 

HOLDING: Yes 

RATIONALE: "Malice may be established by the evidence the conduct is reckless or wanton and a gross deviation from the reasonable standard of care." (461) The jury needs to find there was, inferred from the evidence, the Defendant knew the risk of death or serious bodily harm. In this case the Defendant's actions were so severe it indicates the "depraved disregard of human life." (462) 

DISPOSITION: Affirmed.