The Mental State for Deliberate and Premeditated Murder

In People v. Cortez (1998) 18 Cal.4th 1223, the California Supreme Court had to determine if a conspiracy to commit murder was subject to a finding of less than first degree. the court found it was not. the court said, in part: "As noted, conspiracy is a specific intent crime requiring both an intent to agree or conspire and a further intent to commit the target crime or object of the conspiracy. Murder that is premeditated and deliberated is murder of the first degree. '"Premeditated" means "considered beforehand," and "deliberate" means "formed or arrived at or determined upon as a result of careful thought and weighing of considerations for and against the proposed course of action." the process of premeditation and deliberation does not require any extended period of time. "The true test is not the duration of time as much as it is the extent of the reflection. Thoughts may follow each other with great rapidity and cold, calculated judgment may be arrived at quickly . . . ."' Consequently, it logically follows that where two or more persons conspire to commit murder-i.e., intend to agree or conspire, further intend to commit the target offense of murder, and perform one or more overt acts in furtherance of the planned murdereach has acted with a state of mind 'functionally indistinguishable from the mental state of premeditating the target offense of murder.' The mental state required for conviction of conspiracy to commit murder necessarily establishes premeditation and deliberation of the target offense of murder-hence all murder conspiracies are conspiracies to commit first degree murder, so to speak. More accurately stated, conspiracy to commit murder is a unitary offense punishable in every instance in the same manner as is first degree murder under the provisions of Penal Code section 182." (Id. at p. 1232.) The court in Cortez analyzed the mental state for deliberate and premeditated murder, taking into account the amendment to section 189 to eliminate the need to show "mature meaningful reflection" that had been engrafted onto the definition by earlier case law. The court concluded the dual specific intents required for conspiracy, i.e., the intent to agree and the intent to kill, made the mental state for conspiracy to murder identical to premeditation and deliberation as used in section 189. "We therefore conclude all conspiracy to commit murder is necessarily conspiracy to commit premeditated and deliberate first degree murder." (Cortez, supra, 18 Cal.4th at p. 1237.)