What it takes to convict one in attempted murder case

Monday, January 20th, 2020 15:30 | By
High Court
Court hammer. PHOTO/Courtesy

By Simon Kerich

Attempted murder is the crime of preparing to commit an unlawful killing and having a specific intention to cause the death of a human being.

Just like other crimes, attempted murder consists of both an action and an intention.

In order to be convicted of attempted murder, a prosecutor must show that the accused took a “direct step” towards killing the targeted victim.

‘Direct step’ simply means, a person must go beyond merely preparing to commit the crime, and instead cross over into actually perpetrating it.

Preparation is thinking about committing the crime, talking about it, or otherwise planning to do it, while perpetration is taking an action that puts the plan in motion and that would result in the intended killing.

One cannot accidentally commit attempted murder.

To be convicted of attempted murder, a prosecutor must show that the accused specifically intended to commit the crime.

The prosecutor must not only show that the accused intended to kill, but that the intent was to kill the specific victim.

Intent to act here means, one must have the intent to take the required actions. In other words, you have to intend to carry out the direct step.

Intent to kill means, the accused must intend to cause a specific harm, namely to kill the targeted victim.


Just like murder, attempted murder is charged as either a first degree or second degree offence.

First degree attempted murder means the person intentionally, and with premeditation, tried to kill someone else; while second degree attempted murder means the accused acted without premeditation, or acted in a fit of passion.

Second degree murder also includes deaths that occur while the accused is engaged in committing another felony, such as arson or burglary.

A conviction for first degree attempted murder attracts a lengthier prison sentence than a conviction for second-degree attempted murder.

First degree attempted murder is often punished with a life sentence, though the convicted does have the possibility to receive parole.

Second degree attempted murder usually comes with a lengthy prison sentence, often ranging from between 5 to 15 years in prison.

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