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Criminal Law Keyed to Kennedy
Commonwealth v. Carroll
Citation:412 Pa. 525 (1963)
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- Topic: Identifies the topic of law and where this case fits within your course outline.
- Parties: Identifies the cast of characters involved in the case.
- Procedural Posture & History: Shares the case history with how lower courts have ruled on the matter.
- Case Key Terms, Acts, Doctrines, etc.: A case specific Legal Term Dictionary.
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- Brief Facts: A Synopsis of the Facts of the case.
- Rule of Law: Identifies the Legal Principle the Court used in deciding the case.
- Facts: What are the factual circumstances that gave rise to the civil or criminal case? What is the relationship of the Parties that are involved in the case. Review the Facts of this case here:
The defendant married the victim in 1955, when he was serving in the Army in California. While he was on tour, his wife and two children lived with his parents in New Jersey. Because this arrangement proved incompatible, defendant returned to the United States on emergency leave in order to move his family to their own quarters. On his wife’s insistence, defendant was forced first to secure a “compassionate transfer” back to the States, and subsequently to resign from the Army in July of 1960, by which time he had attained the rank of Chief Warrant Officer. Defendant was a hard worker, earned a substantial salary and bore a very good reputation among his neighbors.
In January, 1962, defendant was selected to attend an electronics school His wife was not happy with this. Immediately prior to leaving for school, at the suggestion of his wife, he put a loaded gun on the window sill at the head of their bed, so that she would feel safe. On the evening of January 16, 1962, the defendant came home and told his wife that the school would require his absence from home a lot. A violent argument ensued at the dinner table and continued until four o’clock in the morning.
The defendant testified that sometime between 3 and 4 in the morning, he remembered the gun on the window sill over their head. Right after his wife dozed off, he shot her twice in the back of the head. Defendant’s own statement after his arrest details the final moments before the crime: “We went into the bedroom a little before 3 o’clock on Wednesday morning where we continued to argue in short bursts. Generally she laid with her back to me facing the wall in bed and would just talk over her shoulder to me. I became angry and more angry especially what she was saying about my kids and myself, and sometime between 3 and 4 o’clock in the morning I remembered the gun on the window sill over my head. I think she had dozed off. I reached up and grabbed the pistol and brought it down and shot her twice in the back of the head.”
At trial, he said that started to think about the children, “seeing my older son’s feet what happened to them. I could see the bruises on him and Michael’s chin was split open, four stitches. I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to help my boys. Sometime in there she said something in there, she called me some kind of name. I kept thinking of this. During this time I either thought or felt – I thought of the gun, just thought of the gun. I am not sure whether I felt my hand move toward the gun – I saw my hand move, the next thing – the only thing I can recollect after that is right after the shots or right during the shots I saw the gun in my hand just pointed at my wife’s head. She was still lying on her back – I mean her side. I could smell the gunpowder and I could hear something – it sounded like running water. I didn’t know what it was at first, didn’t realize what I’d done at first. Then I smelled it. I smelled blood before. …” When asked if he was aware of what he was going to do, he said “I don’t know positively. All I remember hearing was two shots and feeling myself go cold all of a sudden.”
He pleaded guilty generally to an indictment and was tried by a judge without a jury. He was convicted of first degree murder. He appealed, arguing that the conviction is improper because there was insufficient time for premeditation.
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