Although the defendant frames the issue in the context of a jury instruction, I cannot overlook the curiously-drafted indictment’s coming dangerously close to omitting an essential element of murder: that is, that the defendant killed the victim. * * * This indictment alleges that Neal “did willfully, unlawfully, and feloniously decapitate Lakeshia Cleveland, a human being; Jermaine Neal acted with the deliberate design to effect the death of Lakeshia Cleveland, in direct violation of Section 97-3-19(1)(a).” (Emphasis added.)Four more justices signed onto this concurrence in full, one more in part (presumably a still-attached part).
* * * The majority opinion correctly finds the indictment sufficient “because decapitation is a certainly deadly act when done with the deliberate design to effect the death of a human being.” Maj. Op. at ¶ 11, n. 2. Obviously, decapitation is a deadly act only if the victim is still alive when beheaded, and post-mortem decapitation would constitute only mutilation of a corpse, not murder. The indictment is saved, not by the word decapitate, but by the words a human being and the phrase to effect the death of.
I suppose one can never be too careful. (Btw, Mr. Neal did indeed perform the decapitation of his ex-girlfriend post-mortem, having shot her twice in her sleep. "When asked what prompted him to murder Cleveland, Neal responded that 'it was just a lot of pressure.'" Nothing relieves stress like a good shooting-decapitation, I suppose.)