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October 4, 2017

More on Ohio's unique history and application of "prior calculation and design"

In case anyone wishes to dig even deeper into the unique phrasing of Ohio Revised Code Section 2903.01(A), the provision was the subject of an Ohio Supreme Court ruling late last year. In State v. Walker, 2016-Ohio-8295 (Ohio Dec. 23, 2016) (available here), the Court split over whether the trial evidence was sufficient to sustain a jury finding of "prior calculation and design." In so doing, the Walker Court provides this bit of legal history:

When the Revised Code was adopted in 1953, the crime of murder in the first degree — the precursor to aggravated murder — prohibited purposeful killing with “deliberate and premeditated malice.” Former R.C. 2901.01.  Under this earlier standard, “a killing could be premeditated even though conceived and executed on the spur of the moment. The only requirement was that the malicious purpose be formed before the homicidal act, however short in time.” State v. Cotton, 56 Ohio St.2d 8, 11, 381 N.E.2d 190 (1978).

When it amended the aggravated-murder statute, R.C. 2903.01(A), to provide that “[n]o person shall purposely, and with prior calculation and design, cause the death of another,” the General Assembly explicitly rejected the notion that brief premeditation prior to a murder could establish prior calculation and design:

[R.C. 2903.01(A) employs] the phrase, “prior calculation and design,” to indicate an act of studied care in planning or analyzing the means of the crime, as well as a scheme compassing the death of the victim.  Neither the degree of care nor the length of time the offender takes to ponder the crime beforehand are critical factors in themselves, but they must be sufficient to meet the proposed test of “prior calculation and design.”  In this context, momentary deliberation is considered insufficient to constitute a studied scheme to kill.

(Emphasis added.) Ohio Legislative Service Commission, Proposed Ohio Criminal Code: Final Report of the Technical Committee to Study Ohio Criminal Laws and Procedures, at 71 (1971).

October 4, 2017 in Notable real cases, Reflections on class readings | Permalink

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