Ex parte Weems

Citation463 So.2d 170
PartiesEx parte Jared Jerome WEEMS. (Re Jared Jerome Weems v. State of Alabama.) 83-755.
Decision Date16 November 1984
CourtSupreme Court of Alabama

William C. Carn, III, Lee & McInish, Dothan, for petitioner.

Charles A. Graddick, Atty. Gen., and Patricia E. Guthrie, Asst. Atty. Gen., for respondent.

FAULKNER, Justice.

We granted certiorari to review the Court of Criminal Appeals', 463 So.2d 168 (1984), decision affirming petitioner's murder conviction.

On the night of the killing, petitioner, Jared Jerome Weems, had been at a "gambling house" next door to the East North Cafe in Dothan, where he had won about $160.00. While in the house he purchased two cartons of cigarettes. When he left, he encountered a man outside the house who asked him for a pack of cigarettes. When Weems refused, the man slapped him and attempted to cut him with a knife, whereupon Weems fled. Weems had never seen the man before the altercation, but was later told that the man had recently come to Dothan from Florida.

Later that evening Weems returned to the area to retrieve his mother's car, which he had been driving. When he got to the car he discovered that during the course of the evening he had lost the car keys. He surmised that he had probably lost the keys during the altercation with the man from Florida. In an attempt to locate the keys, he decided to go into the East North Cafe to ask if anyone had found them. Fearing the possibility of another encounter with the man from Florida, Weems decided to take into the cafe the gun which his mother kept in the car glove box.

Upon entering the cafe, he surveyed the patrons and determined that the man from Florida was not there. He noticed that a friend of his, Christine Wilson, whom he referred to as "Mama Chris", was at the cafe that night. Weems went over to talk to her. When Weems arrived at the table where Wilson was sitting, he realized that he still had the pistol in his hand. Weems testified that while he was in the process of putting the pistol away, it discharged and hit Ms. Wilson.

Numerous people who were in the cafe at the time of the shooting testified. Their accounts were substantially similar to Weems's and to each other's. Typical of the accounts of the shooting given at the trial was the one given by the bartender, Linton McIntyre. McIntyre testified that he was standing behind the counter facing the victim when she was shot. Neither he nor any of the other witnesses saw the shot being fired. When McIntyre heard the shot he looked in that direction and heard Wilson tell Weems, "Mister, you done shot me." McIntyre testified that Weems replied, "Mama Chris, if you are shot let me take you to the hospital." There was some confusion in the cafe as to whether Wilson had been shot or whether she had had a heart attack, because her wound did not bleed. McIntyre testified that Weems left "a couple of minutes" later.

On appeal, Weems argued that because he did not intend to kill Wilson, his conviction for murder was inappropriate. The Court of Criminal Appeals concluded that, although Weems may not have intended to shoot Wilson, there was evidence to support a finding that he had intended to shoot Sylvester Goodson, the man sitting at the table with the victim. The court noted that Weems did not know the man with whom he had had the altercation earlier and that it was "very likely that Weems thought Goodson was his attacker." The court based its conclusion that Weems was attempting to shoot Goodson on the fact that the trajectory of the bullet was parallel to the ground and the fact that the bullet was traveling in Goodson's direction. The court concluded that it was unlikely that Weems was attempting to place the gun under his belt since the trajectory of the bullet was parallel to the ground and that Goodson must have been the intended target, because the bullet was traveling toward him.

The problem with the Court of Criminal Appeals' transferred intent theory is that there was no more evidence that Weems was attempting to kill Goodson than there was that he intended to kill Wilson. Weems knew Goodson. He testified that Goodson was not the man who attacked him. There was no testimony given by any of the occurrence witnesses to the effect that there had been any sort of disagreement that evening, or on any previous occasion, between Weems and Goodson. It is patently obvious that intent to kill cannot be proved from the trajectory of the bullet alone. Obviously, whenever a person is shot, he is in the path of the bullet which hits him. If being in the path of the bullet were sufficient to prove intent, there would be no accidental shootings. Since there was no evidence of intent to kill Goodson other than the naked fact that Goodson was in the bullet's path, the conviction cannot be upheld on the theory that Weems was trying to shoot Goodson when Wilson was killed.

Indeed, the state does not even contend that Weems was trying to shoot Goodson. It argues that, "It is uncontradicted that the killing of 'Mama Chris' was accidental; nonetheless, ample evidence was produced whereby a jury could easily infer Mr. Weems entered the East North Cafe with a cocked, loaded pistol, intending to shoot someone."

In support of its position, the state relies primarily on Sashington v. State, 56 Ala.App. 698, 325 So.2d 205 (1975). The victim in that case was celebrating his 65th birthday with a party at his home when he was shot. The defendant, a guest at the party, lived in a trailer about 150 yards from the victim's house. A fight occurred during the party involving the defendant's father and brother. Another individual was standing in the front yard waving a shotgun. The defendant went home and returned with a shotgun. One shot was fired from the defendant's gun in the direction of the front porch, killing the victim. The victim was a friend of the defendant, and the defendant argued that he had not intended to kill him. Additionally, the defendant argued that he had not intended to kill anyone. In holding the evidence presented a jury question as to intent to kill someone, the Court of Criminal Appeals relied on the transferred intent theory. It stated, "To be guilty of murder, one has to have the intention to kill a human being, but it does not have to be the person who is killed." 56 Ala.App. at 700, 325 So.2d at 207....

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44 cases
  • Sheffield v. State Of Ala.
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
    • 5 Noviembre 2010
    ...in order to be convicted of intentional murder under § 13A-6-2(a)(1)." Ex parte Washington, 448 So. 2d at 408. Further, in Ex parte Weems, 463 So. 2d 170 (Ala. 1984), the Alabama Supreme Court explained the difference between thedegree of recklessness that constitutes murder and the degree ......
  • Sheffield v. State
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
    • 20 Enero 2012
    ...in order to be convicted of intentional murder under § 13A–6–2(a)(1).”Ex parte Washington, 448 So.2d at 408. Further, in Ex parte Weems, 463 So.2d 170 (Ala.1984), the Alabama Supreme Court explained the difference between the degree of recklessness that constitutes murder and the degree of ......
  • Phillips v. State
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
    • 18 Diciembre 2015
    ...a substantial and unjustifiable risk that his conduct would cause that result.’ " (Phillips's brief, p. 11 (quoting Ex parte Weems, 463 So. 2d 170, 172 (Ala. 1984) ).)During the jury-charge conference, Phillips requested that the trial court instruct the jury on reckless manslaughter pursua......
  • Dunaway v. State
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
    • 23 Octubre 1998
    ...offense of intentional murder, the crime for which appellant was indicted. Paige v. State, 494 So.2d 795 (Ala.Cr.App.1986); Ex parte Weems, 463 So.2d 170 (Ala.1984). This contention seems to be based on the `diminished capacity "`The diminished-capacity doctrine recognizes that although an ......
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