People v. Ware: Specific Intent to Kill Required for Murder Conviction
In the case of People v. Ware, the Supreme Court of California held that there must be evidence of a specific intent to kill in order for a defendant to be convicted of murder. Even if there is evidence for conspiracy to commit murder, this is not enough unless the prosecution can prove intent. If you or your loved one has been accused of murder, continue reading to find out if a skilled attorney from Wallin & Klarich can argue this defense on your behalf.
The defendant Nicholas Hoskins, a member of the Brim gang, was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder in a conspiracy spanning two years between 2012 and 2014 and involving at least 20 other Brim members. The alleged object of this conspiracy was to murder rival gang members. At Hoskins’s trial, however, the prosecution failed to present evidence that he either committed or aided and abetted any act of violence. Additionally, the prosecution did not present any direct evidence that Hoskins even agreed with the other gang members to commit violent acts. Rather, the prosecution relied on circumstantial evidence to establish Hoskin’s participation in the conspiracy, including evidence of Hoskin’s gang membership, his access to a gun, his involvement in the shooting of Byreese Taylor, and his social media posts celebrating violence against rival gains. The jury found Hoskins guilty of conspiracy to commit murder and sentenced him to 25 years to life in prison.
Insufficient Evidence of Specific Intent to Kill
On appeal, Hoskins argued that the circumstantial evidence relied on by the prosecution was insufficient to support a conviction for conspiracy to commit murder. Rather, the prosecution needed to prove evidence of Hoskins’ specific intent to kill. According to California Penal Code Section 182, the crime of conspiracy has four elements:
- An agreement between at least two people
- Specific intent to agree to commit an offense
- Specific intent to commit the offense in the agreement
- An overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy
In this case, none of the circumstantial evidence presented by the prosecution was enough for a reasonable jury to find beyond a reasonable doubt that Hoskins intended to agree to participate in a conspiracy to murder rival gang members. The Supreme Court of California highlighted the difference between evidence of mere membership in a gang versus evidence sufficient to support a conspiracy to a murder conviction. As such, the court reversed the judgment of the lower courts and remanded the case for further proceedings.
Contact Wallin & Klarich Today
Many crimes, including conspiracy to commit murder, require a certain level of intent for the prosecution to convict you. If you or your loved one has been charged, contact our skilled attorneys today to see if we can argue this defense on your behalf. With 40+ years of experience, Wallin & Klarich has helped hundreds of clients accused of specific intent crimes avoid legal penalties and life sentences. By keeping up-to-date on the most recent case law, our attorneys know the most effective strategies to help you achieve the best possible outcome.
With offices in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Victorville, Torrance, West Covina, Los Angeles, and San Diego, you are sure to find a Wallin & Klarich lawyer available to help you in a convenient location. Discover how our team can assist you. Contact us today, toll-free at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free consultation with a skilled defense attorney.