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State v. Davis

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Brief Fact Summary. The Defendant, Davis (Defendant), was convicted of attempted murder for hiring someone to kill another man so that he could collect the insurance money. The man he hired to do the killing was actually an undercover police officer who never intended to carry out the crime.

Synopsis of Rule of Law. Mere acts of preparation, failing to lead directly or proximately to the completion of a crime, cannot sustain a conviction for an “attempt” crime.

Points of Law - Legal Principles in this Case for Law Students.

In the one case, the officer spurns the temptation, and maintains his purity and integrity; in the other, he manifests a depravity and dishonesty existing in himself, which, when developed by the proposal to take a bribe, if done with a corrupt intent, should be punished; and it would be a slander upon the law to suppose that such conduct can not be checked, by appropriate punishment.

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Facts. The Defendant paid another individual – whom he did not know was an undercover police officer – $600 to carry out his plans for killing someone. The Defendant devised scheme for the other individual to appear at this person’s home, kill him and then feign a robbery. At the appointed time for the robbery, the undercover officer went to the intended crime scene, informed the persons there of his real identity, then went back to the Defendant’s home and arrested the Defendant.

Issue. Did the Defendant commit attempted murder by unknowingly hiring as a “hit man” an undercover police officer who never had any intention of carrying out the crime.

Held. No. Judgment reversed.
The evidence presented by the state established nothing more than that the Defendant had a verbal arrangement with another person for a murder-for-hire, that the Defendant delivered photographs of the intended victim to the person hired to kill him, and that the Defendant paid this person a portion of the agreed amount for the job as consideration. These things were merely acts of preparation. Furthermore, the man hired to kill the intended victim was an undercover police officer who never planned to follow through with the agreed plan. He did nothing more than listen to the Defendant’s plans, without ever intending to act upon them. The state did not establish that this person ever committed an act that could be interpreted as an actual attempt.

Discussion. This case illustrates “attempt” jurisprudence in relation to solicitation. Here, the court held that the solicitation by the Defendant of another person to commit murder was not itself an act constituting a substantial step toward the completion of a crime.

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