The Morales Factors (California)

The Morales factors, including the requirement of a substantial period of watching and waiting, are a part of the factual matrix required both for first-degree murder under a lying-in-wait theory, and for the lying-in-wait special circumstance. The Court held that an intentional murder, committed under circumstances which include (1) a concealment of purpose; (2) a substantial period of watching and waiting for an opportune time to act; and (3) a surprise attack following immediately on an unsuspecting victim from a position of advantage (the Morales factors), justifies treating it as a special circumstance. Only the numbered factors would be at issue in lying-in-wait first degree murder, as it does not require an intentional killing. (See fn. 12, post.) (Morales, supra, 48 Cal. 3d at p. 557.) In People v. Morales (1989) 48 Cal.3d 527, the court addressed the issue of the lying-in-wait special circumstance. However, that same language, as defendant notes, has been cited as the definition of lying in wait for first degree murder purposes as well, in other cases. The issue of whether a "substantial period" of watching and waiting is required for lying-in-wait first degree murder was most directly discussed by the Supreme Court in People v. Stanley (1995) 10 Cal.4th 764, 795. The defendant in Stanley was challenging the first degree murder lying-in-wait instruction, arguing that it improperly required a period of lying in wait sufficient to be equivalent to premeditation or deliberation, rather than premeditation and deliberation. After rejecting this contention, the court went on to address another of the defendant's arguments, "that if deliberation need not be proved, virtually any premeditated murder can satisfy the requirements of lying in wait and thus be murder in the first degree." (Ibid.) The defendant maintained, "once the prosecution has proved premeditation, it has, by the same facts, in effect proved lying in wait." (Ibid.) The Supreme Court found this contention to be meritless, stating: " 'Premeditated' simply means ' " 'considered beforehand.' " ' For lying in wait, by contrast, the prosecution must prove the elements of concealment of purpose together with 'a substantial period of watching and waiting for an opportune time to act, and ... immediately thereafter, a surprise attack on an unsuspecting victim from a position of advantage.' (Morales, supra, at p. 557 lying-in-wait special circumstance.) These circumstances, taken together, present 'a factual matrix ... distinct from "ordinary" premeditated murder ... .' " (Id. at pp. 795-796.)