Regina v. Cunningham
English Court - 1957
- D lived in a house that was connected to the house of his future mother-in-law, Sarah Wade.
- D needed money, so he stole the gas meter from the basement of the conjoined houses. Gas leaked everywhere and nearly killed Wade in her sleep.
- D was charged with larceny and with causing the injury to Wade.
- Judge instructed jury that D could be convicted even if he did not intend to harm Wade as long as he acted unlawfully and maliciously (wickedly).
- Trial court found D guilty.
- Appellate court reversed, remanded.
- How is malice defined as it relates to the criminal state of mind?
- Malice requires either an actual intention to do the particular kind of harm that was in fact done or recklessness as to whether such harm should occur or not.
- D's act was clearly unlawful, but the jury needed to decide whether the act was malicious within the meaning of the statute.
- The jury needed to decide whether, even if D did not intend to harm Wade, he foresaw that the removal of the gas meter might cause injury.
- It can't be said that the jury could find this without a reasonable doubt, so the conviction must be vacated.
- Under the statute, a person must act unlawfully and maliciously.
- Maliciously does not equal wickedly, lower court