Premeditated Murder in the Virgin Islands

Both first- and second-degree murder in the Virgin Islands require an unlawful killing that must be committed with "malice aforethought." 14 V.I.C. 921. In the Virgin Islands, malice aforethought does not mean simply hatred or particular ill will, but extends to and embraces generally the state of mind with which one commits a wrongful act. It may be inferred from circumstances which show a wanton and depraved spirit, a mind bent on evil mischief without regard to its consequences. And "where the killing is proved to have been accomplished with a deadly weapon, malice can be inferred from that fact alone." Gov't of the V.I. v. Sampson, 94 F. Supp. 2d 639, 42 V.I. 247, 253 (D.V.I. App. Div. 2000) (quoting Gov't of the V.I. v. Knight, 764 F. Supp. 1042, 26 V.I. 280, 290 (D.V.I. 1991)). The difference between first-and second-degree murder is that first-degree murder requires a killing done with malice aforethought and which was "willful, deliberate, and premeditated." 14 V.I.C. 921; 922(a)(1). See also Gov't of the V.I. v. Rosa, 399 F.3d 283, 295 n.13 (3d Cir. 2005) ("First-degree murder is distinguishable from second-degree murder in that to prove second-degree murder it is not necessary to prove deliberation and premeditation."). As the Court described in Brown v. People, 54 V.I. 496, 507 (V.I. 2010), premeditation is "the deliberate formation of and reflection upon the intent to take a human life, and involves the mental process of thinking beforehand, deliberation, reflection, weighing, or reasoning for a period of time, however short. Premeditation, however, may be established by circumstantial evidence, including: the nature of the weapon used, lack of provocation, the defendant's conduct before and after the killing, threats and declarations of the defendant before and during the occurrence, or the dealing of lethal blows after the deceased was felled and rendered helpless. Other relevant factors include ill will or previous difficulties between the parties, evidence that the killing was done in a brutal manner, the nature and number of the victim's wounds, the use of a deadly weapon upon an unarmed victim, the particular cruelty of the killing, declarations by the defendant of an intent to kill, evidence of procurement of a weapon, preparations before the killing for concealment of the crime, and calmness immediately after the killing ... . The premeditation required for a first-degree murder conviction is not inferred from the use of a deadly weapon alone ...." 54 V.I. at 506-07.