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Commonwealth v. McCloskey

Citation. 234 Pa. Super. 577, 341 A.2d 500, 1975 Pa. Super. 1564.
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Brief Fact Summary.

The Defendant, McCloskey (Defendant), took steps toward escaping from prison, but before actually exiting the prison, he changed his mind and returned to his work assignment.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

Voluntarily abandoning a crime before completion exonerates a defendant from criminal responsibility.


The Defendant was serving a prison term of one to three years for larceny. James Larson (Larson), a Guard Supervisor, heard an alarm go off indicating that someone was attempting an escape in the recreation area of the prison. Larson contacted other guards and conducted a check of the prison population, but no one was missing. They then searched the area where the alarm had been tripped. The guards found a barbed wire that had been cut and a laundry bag filled with civilian clothing. The laundry bag was identified as belonging to the Defendant. Thereafter, the Defendant voluntarily approached Larson and explained that he was going to break out but changed his mind.


Does the Defendant’s conduct evidence a complete and voluntary abandonment of the crime of attempted escape?


Yes. The Defendant scaled a fence within the prison walls, but he only went so far as the yard before giving up on his plan to escape. Therefore, the Defendant was still only contemplating an escape and not yet attempting the act. The Defendant voluntarily abandoned the crime of attempted prison breach, which exonerated him from criminal responsibility.


The Defendant did adequately voluntarily abandon his escape, thereby exonerating himself from criminal responsibility. However, the majority incorrectly states that the Defendant had not yet attempted the act of escape. When the Defendant snipped the barbed wire and crossed the inner fence, he was beyond preparation and into attempted escape.


Abandonment of the attempted crime before completion is a valid defense to the crime. Abandonment must be voluntary and complete.

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