People v. McCoy

Supreme Court of California, 2001.

25 Cal.4th 1111, 24 P.3d 1210, 108 Cal.Rptr.2d 188.


Facts: McCoy and Lakey were convicted of first-degree murder in a drive-by shooting.  McCoy’s conviction was overturned.  The Court of Appeal found that Lakey’s conviction cannot stand because he would be guilty of a higher offense than the actual perpetrator.


Issue: Can an aider and abettor be found guilty of a greater homicide offense than the actual perpetrator?


Rule: If an aider or abettor helps or induces someone to kill, that individual’s guilt is based on the combination of the actus reus of the perpetrator plus their own personal mens rea.


Analysis: An aider or abettor doesn’t require the same mental state as the actual perpetrator.  Actually, the aider or abettor must have the same or greater mens rea than the perpetrator.  If the two actors are held accountable for the same act, but one (the aider or abettor) is found to have a more culpable mental state than the other (the actual perpetrator) then it is appropriate to punish the former more seriously than the latter.


Conclusion: It appears that Lakey’s conviction is upheld.


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