In 2018, 19-year-old Davion Murphy, driving through residential Lancaster, California at a speed of 88 miles per hour, with a posted speed limit was 40 mph, ran a red light colliding with another vehicle. The collision caused the death of all three occupants in the vehicle Mr. Murphy’s vehicle hit. Mr. Murphy was arrested at the scene and upon investigation, the officers found marijuana in his vehicle. Further discovery revealed that Mr. Murphy had been smoking copious amounts of marijuana prior to the collision. Mr. Murphy was charged with three counts of second degree murder. Mr. Murphy’s case went to jury trial where he was convicted on all three counts. Mr. Murphy appealed.
The California Court of Appeals, Second District recently affirmed the conviction in a published case, People v. Murphy (2022) 80 Cal. App. 5th 713.
Mr. Murphy argued on appeal that the prosecution failed to present sufficient evidence to support the murder charges because the prosecution failed to support an element of the charge, i.e., there was insufficient evidence that he acted with implied malice. Expressed malice, an element of first degree murder, is the deliberate intent to kill someone whereas implied malice, a necessary element of second degree murder is the killing of someone without the deliberate intent but a result of an act that has a high probability it will result in the death of another, an act with “wanton disregard for human life.” The act must be deliberately committed with the knowledge that it is a danger to human life and with a conscious disregard of that danger. (This distinguishes implied malice from gross negligence. For example, sober but excessive speeding that causes the death of another.)