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People v. Kessler

    Citation

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    Bloomberg Law

    Brief Fact Summary. Defendant was convicted of burglary and two counts of attempted murder. Defendant was in the getaway car while two companions burglarized a building. During the altercation the owner of the building and a police officer were shot and wounded.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. When one aids another in the planning or commission of an offense, he is legally accountable for the conduct of the person he aids.

    Facts. Defendant was convicted of one count of burglary and two counts of attempted murder. Defendant waited in a car outside a bar while two companions entered a building to commit a burglary. The owner surprised burglars and was wounded. While the others fled, one shot and wounded a police officer. The Appellate Court affirmed the burglary conviction and reversed the attempted murder convictions. The State appealed.

    Issue. Whether Defendant’s conduct supported a conviction for attempted murder?

    Held. Affirm the burglary conviction and reverse the part of its decision which reversed the conviction of Defendant for attempted murder.
    Where one aids another in the planning or commission of an offense, he is legally accountable for the conduct of the person he aids.

    The word conduct encompasses any criminal act done in furtherance of the planned and intended act.

    Dissent. The dissent focused on the comments to the statute regarding accomplice liability which stated that the Government must show proof of promoting and facilitating the substantive offense. With respect to the substantive offense of attempted murder, the Dissent focused on the fact that Defendant remained in the car while the others fled and shot at the police officer. Further, Defendant sent his accomplices into the building believing they were unarmed.

    Discussion. The Court ruled that there existed a common design to commit a robbery or burglary. Although mere presence is not enough, if the person is present without approving or disapproving of the act, there may be sufficient evidence for the jury to find that the individual aided and abetted the crime. Here there was sufficient evidence presented that Defendant fully intended to participate in the commission of the burglary and thus should be held accountable for the results of his actions, which was the wounding of the owner of the building and police officer.


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