Commonwealth v. Malone
354 Pa. 180, 47 A.2d 445 (1946)

  • Malone (17 years old) found a gun. He put one bullet in the chamber and asked his friend Long (13 years old) if they could play Russian Roulette. Malone pulled the trigger 3 times. The third chamber held the bullet.
    • Malone claimed he thought that the bullet was in the final chamber.
  • Malone was arrested and charged with murder.
  • The Trial Court found Malone guilty of second-degree murder and sentenced him to 5-10 years in prison. He appealed.
    • Malone argued that he did not intentionally or knowingly kill Long. Therefore his conduct did not rise to second-degree murder. At best, he was reckless, which would support a charge of manslaughter.
  • The Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld the sentence.
    • The Pennsylvania Supreme Court found that Malone intentionally performed an act that had a very high chance of causing death. He did this with reckless disregard for the possible consequences.
    • The Court found that such intentional doing of such an uncalled-for act in callous disregard of the consequences was enough to show malice and thus sustain a charge of second-degree murder.
      • Some would call Malone’s actions depraved indifference or extreme indifference.
  • See Model Penal Code §210.2(1)(b), which treats an unintended killing as murder when it is committed recklessly and under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life.