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State v. Shumway

Supreme Court of Utah
63 P.3d 94 (2002)


Fifteen-year-old Brookes Colby Shumway (defendant) attended a sleepover at the home of his friend, Christopher Ray. Shumway and Ray stayed up into the early hours of the morning playing video games. At approximately seven o’clock in the morning, Shumway went into the bedroom of Ray’s mother and told her that Ray tried to stab him and that Shumway had stabbed Ray in response. Despite efforts by Ray’s mother and Shumway to revive Ray, Ray died at the scene. Ray had been stabbed 39 times, including a fatal injury to the neck. The police found a butcher’s knife at the scene, but later determined that the fatal neck wound was not caused by the butcher’s knife. The weapon used to inflict that wound was not recovered in the police search of the home. Shumway was tried as an adult and convicted of murder and tampering with evidence. According to Shumway, Ray was angry that Shumway was more successful in their video games. Ray retrieved a knife from the kitchen and started playing with it as the boys went to bed. Ray poked Shumway with the knife several times, resulting in injuries to Shumway’s hands. The boys then wrestled for control of the knife, and Shumway stabbed Ray. Evidence showed that Ray had a temper, while Shumway was generally a peaceful person. Officers testified that when they arrived at Ray’s home, Shumway was unthreatening and cooperative. The jury was instructed that manslaughter, as a lesser-included offense of murder, could not be considered, unless the evidence at trial failed to prove one or more elements of murder. The state conceded that this instruction was erroneous, because it failed to instruct the jury that manslaughter based on extreme emotional disturbance could be found even if the evidence supported all the elements of murder. The state argued, however, that the error was harmless. Shumway appealed on the ground that the erroneous instruction was plain error.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Howe, J.)

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