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People v. Williams

Supreme Court of California
29 P.3d 197 (2001)


Deborah Nicholson was in an ongoing relationship with her former husband, Gregory King, but was also in a relationship with Lebarron Keith Williams (defendant), which led to confrontations between the two men. One day King drove to Nicholson’s house with his two teenage sons, parked, and knocked and left a note for Nicholson on the door, while Williams’s truck was parked in the driveway. Williams came out of the house, warned King to stay away from Nicholson, and then walked to his own truck and retrieved a shotgun. Williams loaded the shotgun and fired at the rear wheel well of King’s truck, while King was crouching behind the truck on the other side. Williams claimed that he only intended the shot as a “warning” and that he never saw King’s sons in the vicinity of the truck. Neither King nor his sons were hit, but King’s truck and rear tire were. Williams was charged with shooting at an occupied motor vehicle and three counts of assault with a firearm. The trial court gave the standard jury instruction for assault. The jury convicted Williams of the assault on King, but deadlocked on the other charges. The deadlocked charges were dismissed. Upon appeal, the court of appeal found that the assault instruction was erroneous because it incorrectly described the mental state required for assault and reversed Williams’s conviction. The Supreme Court of California granted review to clarify the mental state required for assault.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Brown, J.)

Dissent (Kennard, J.)

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