Chatman and Swain were riding in a van which participated in a drive-by shooting of a 15-year-old boy.
Chatman admitted that he had been in the van but was not in the van to commit a murder. He claimed he heard shots and fired in self-defense.
Swain claimed that he had left the van earlier in the evening because he disliked the smell of marijuana. Later, while in jail, Swain boasted to cellmates about his good aim and about how he had shot a Samoan kid when his was in a van going 30 mph up a hill.
Trial court found Chatman guilty of second degree murder and conspiracy to commit second degree murder; found Swain guilty of conspiracy to commit second degree murder.
Is intent to kill a required element of the crime of conspiracy to commit murder?
Intent to kill is a required element of the crime of conspiracy to commit murder. There is no conspiracy for anything other than first degree murder in CA.
Conspiracy is a specific intent crime; there must be the intent to agree or conspire and the intent to commit the offense which is the object of the conspiracy.
The variety of second degree murder under which the conviction proceeded was implied malice murder based on a killing perpetrated with an abandoned and malignant heart.
Implied malice murder, in contrast to express malice, requires an intent to do some act, the natural consequences of which are dangerous to human life.
It would be illogical to conclude that one can be found guilty of conspiring to commit a murder where the requisite element of malice is implied. Such a construction would be at odds with the very nature of the crime of conspiracy.
The jury must have believed that Swain actually was not in the van or he would have been convicted of murder as well.