The crime of assault with intent to murder is an extremely serious offense in Michigan where the defendant is accused of trying to physically attack someone else to cause death. You do not have to be successful in committing the murder (or any physical injury for that matter) to be convicted under this statute.
An individual is guilty of assault with intent to murder, contrary to MCL 750.83, if the prosecutor can prove all of the following beyond a reasonable doubt (See Model Criminal Jury Instruction 17.3):
- First, that the individual tried to physically injure another person.
- Second, that when the individual committed the assault, he or she had the ability to cause an injury, or at least believed that he or she had the ability.
- Third, that the individual intended to kill the person he or she assaulted, and the circumstances did not legally excuse or reduce the crime.
Assault with intent to murder is a felony conviction punishable by life or any number of years in state prison.
However, an individual can only be convicted of assault with intent to murder if the victim would have died under circumstances that would have amounted to murder and not manslaughter or negligent homicide. People v Lipps, 167 Mich App 99, 106; 421 NW2d 586 (1988). Trial judges are required to charge the jury with the following instructions in a prosecution for assault with intent to murder (See Model Criminal Jury Instruction 17.4):
- “The defendant can only be guilty of the crime of assault with intent to commit murder if he or she would have been guilty of murder had the person he or she assaulted actually died. If the assault took place under circumstances that would have reduced the charge to manslaughter if the person had died, the defendant is not guilty of assault with intent to commit murder.”
- “Voluntary manslaughter is different from murder in that for manslaughter, the following things must be true:”
- “First, when the defendant acted, his or her thinking must have been disturbed by emotional excitement to the point that an ordinary person might have acted on impulse, without thinking twice, from passion instead of judgment. This emotional excitement must have been caused by something that would cause an ordinary person to act rashly or on impulse. The law does not say what things are enough to do this. That is for you to decide.”
- “Second, the killing itself must have resulted from this emotional excitement. The defendant must have acted before a reasonable time had passed to calm down and before reason took over again. The law does not say how much time is needed. That is for you to decide. The test is whether a reasonable time passed under the circumstances of this case.”
- “If you find that the crime would have been manslaughter had the person died, then you must find the defendant not guilty of assault with intent to murder.”
In Michigan, a murder conviction can be supported by certain “intents” possessed by the offender. Specifically, there can be “the intention to kill, the intention to do great bodily harm, or the wanton and willful disregard of the likelihood that the natural tendency of defendant’s behavior is to cause death or great bodily harm.” People v Aaron, 409 Mich 672, 728; 299 NW2d 304 (1980). Assault with intent to murder is a specific intent crime that requires the prosecutor to prove that the defendant possessed the intent to kill. People v Joeseype Johnson, 407 Mich 196, 218-219; 284 NW2d 718 (1979). If the intent was only to do great bodily harm or the actor acted with willful disregard, then the defendant should only be convicted of a lesser offense such as assault with intent to do great bodily harm. It is not enough for the defendant to intend to place the victim in fear of being murdered to sustain a conviction. People v Burnett, 166 Mich App 741, 756-757; 421 NW2d 278 (1988).
When facing a charge of assault with intent to murder, you may only get one shot to properly defend against this serious offense. Otherwise, you can spend the next several decades of your life in prison. You need a skilled criminal defense lawyer that can carefully review the evidence, evaluate all possible defenses, and hold the prosecutor to proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Since assault with intent to murder is a specific intent crime, this means that the element of intent can possibly be negated by showing intoxication, insanity or duress. It is also a complete defense to show that the defendant was acting in lawful self-defense, provided that the evidence shows that deadly force was justified under the circumstances. If the prosecutor cannot prove that the defendant intended to kill (or cannot prove the killing was not justified), then the defendant should be acquitted. Even if the evidence is strong, a defense lawyer can still negotiate for a reduced charge that can save several years from a potential sentence. The stakes are too high to settle for anything less than the best.
If you or a loved one is charged with any crime and need legal representation, do not hesitate to contact the experienced attorneys at Kershaw, Vititoe & Jedinak PLC for assistance today.