The Crime of Attempted Murder in Massachusetts
To convict a defendant of attempted murder, the district attorney prosecuting the case must prove that the defendant took a real step toward carrying out murder and came dangerously close to completing the murder. He must prove that the defendant’s conduct reached the level of an overt act. An overt act is a physical action that a person could reasonably expect to generate a chain of events that would result in the crime unless some external fact or event interferes. In the context of attempted murder, the act must be one designed to result in death and committed with the specific intent that death result. Preparation or solicitation is not enough to constitute an overt act. To be convicted of attempted murder, the gap between the defendant’s action and the completion of the crime must be much narrower. In these cases, how small or large that gap is will be determined by the unique facts and circumstances.
Criminal attempts, including attempted murder, are crimes in which guilt depends on the defendant’s intentions. The district attorney must prove that the defendant both (1) harbored a specific intent to kill and (2) acted with malice. “Malice” in attempted murder cases means only that there was no excuse, mitigation or justification. An excuse or justification is something that makes otherwise unlawful conduct lawful. A common example of an excuse or justification is self-defense. “Mitigation” encompasses a broader range of situations. Mitigation cannot be the basis of acquittal, but it can give reason for a conviction of a lesser-included offense. Mental incapacity can prevent a defendant from forming the malice necessary for an attempted murder conviction.How Can I Defend Myself from This Type of Charge?
This charge is not frequently used in Massachusetts because it is often difficult for the District Attorney to prove. Sometimes, in the arena of domestic assault cases this charge is utilized when the District Attorney wants a serious felony charge to be lodged against a defendant when there is no other option. For example, in circumstances in which a case may be a simple assault and battery (which is a misdemeanor) and the authorities want to lodge more serious charges against a defendant and a “dangerous weapon” was not involved, they often resort to charging the person with attempted murder. This could be the case in situations in which a defendant is alleged to have choked the complaining witness. In most circumstances, this would be a simple assault and battery. A viable defense on these set of facts is that the defendant did not harbor malice and did not possess the requisite intent.
If you are facing this charge, the circumstances surrounding the incident must be carefully examined. If more than one person has been charged, then an argument can be made that the parties did not have a shared specific intent to commit the crime. Also, as with many crimes, misidentification and witness biases should always be considered as a way to create a reasonable doubt.
Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 274 Section 6 is the statute governing attempted crimes. Obviously, attempted murder is a very serious charge. If you or a loved one has been charged with attempted murder, retaining an attorney with unmatched expertise and skill is crucial. Kathleen M. McCarthy is such an attorney. McCarthy practices in all criminal trial and appeals courts in the state. Throughout her legal career, McCarthy has concentrated on criminal law in Massachusetts. She knows the ins and outs of every step of the criminal process, and vigorously represents her clients at every stage of legal proceedings. If you have been charged with attempted murder or any other crime, call the Law Offices of Kathleen M. McCarthy at (978) 975-8060 or contact her online today.