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State v. Guthrie

West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals
461 S.E.2d 163 (1995)


Facts

Dale Edward Guthrie (defendant) worked as a dishwasher at a restaurant. One evening, several of his co-workers began poking fun at him, including Steven Todd Farley who snapped Guthrie with a dishtowel several times. After Farley snapped Guthrie in the nose with the dishtowel, Guthrie became enraged, took a knife out of his pocket and stabbed Farley in the neck, killing him. Guthrie suffered from a host of psychiatric problems, including panic attacks, chronic depression and borderline personality disorder. Guthrie’s father testified that his son also obsessed about his nose and would stand in front of a mirror on a daily basis staring at his nose. Guthrie testified he suffered an “intense” panic attack immediately before the stabbing. The trial judge instructed the jury in instruction 8 that “…to constitute a willful, deliberate, and premeditated killing, it is not necessary that the intention to kill should exist for any particular length of time prior to the actual killing; it is only necessary that such intention should have come into existence for the first time at the time of such killing, or at any time previously.” Also, the judge gave jury instruction 10 which stated “…in order to constitute a “premeditated murder an intent to kill need exist only for an instant.” Jury instruction 12 stated “[w]hat is meant by the language willful, deliberate, and premeditated is that the killing be intentional.” The jury convicted Guthrie of first-degree murder and he appealed, arguing that the collection of instructions was improperly given to the jury.

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Holding and Reasoning (Cleckley, J.)

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