To research this scenario, One must look to the elements of Criminal Attempt-Murder. Murder is the unlawful killing of another human being with intention and malicious aforethought. (USLegal INC, 2010) Criminal Attempt requires three things; an intent or purpose to commit a particular crime, an overt act toward accomplishing that target crime, and a failure to complete the target crime. (Lippman, 2007) In this scenario, Jack approached the car with the intent to shooting and killing Bert, obvious malice aforethought. Upon arriving, he shot at the two occupants, striking and killing Pratt.
When he attempted to complete the act on Bert, the gun jammed and he was unable to accomplish the criminal act against Bert, and Jack fled. There are two types of Criminal Attempts, a complete attempt, and an incomplete attempt. A Complete attempt is an attempt in which the perpetrator has taken all steps to complete the criminal act, but fails to accomplish it. An Incomplete attempt is an attempt in which the Perpetrator has completed some steps toward accomplishing the criminal act, but is thwarted from its completion due to extraneous circumstances outside of his control factors, such as the arrival of the police or witnesses. Shecket, 2003)
In this case, clearly, this was a complete attempt toward the commission of Murder as it relates to Bert. Jack has accomplished all of the steps toward murdering Bert; bringing a gun to the scene, approaching the car, and firing the gun in the direction of the Bert. His intent was clearly shown when he fired the shot that killed Pratt, for which he will be appropriately charged with murder. (West Law Corporation, 2010) But in the case of Bert, the gun jammed, and he was unable to finish the criminal act against Bert, and fled the location.
He didn’t abandon his intent to kill Bert, which could possibly have been a possible defense, (Lexis Nexus, 2010) it was just the fact that the gun was unable mechanically to fire. He showed his intent on killing and took all of the acts toward accomplishing that target crime. In this scenario, however, the defense counsel for Jack moved to have the court dismiss the attempted murder charge under the guise of impossibility, claiming that due to the fact that the gun was malfunctioning, Jack could not in fact kill Bert, and therefore, impossibility would apply.
There are three types of Impossibility; factual impossibility, legal impossibility, and inherent impossibility. (West Law Corporation, 2010) Factual impossibility in criminal attempt is when a perpetrator takes all of the steps towards accomplishing a crime, but was unable to complete it due to circumstances of events beyond his control. An example would be the perpetrator shooting into the bed where a subject is normally sleeping, but he is not physically present. (USLegal INC, 2010) The second, a legal impossibility, is when a defendant believes that they are committing a criminal offense, when in fact they are not.
An example of this would be the Defendant who receives items believing they are stolen, thus receiving stolen property, when in fact they were not. (USLegal INC, 2010) The third, an inherent impossibility, arises under circumstances that a perpetrator attempts to commit a crime, but the circumstances or facts made it impossible to commit the offense. (Shivpuri, 2010) In this scenario, the defense counsel inserted a factual impossibility. There was no way that Jack could be held criminally liable for the offense of Criminal Attempt-Murder because he couldn’t murder anyone, because the gun was malfunctioning and would not fire.
This was a factual impossibility. However, factual impossibility is not an accepted defense to the criminal attempt to commit a crime. (Lippman, 2007) Jack had the required purpose and intent to murder Bert. He took all the necessary steps to accomplish it, and simply, to the luck of Bert, the gun malfunctioned and would not fire. Jack had the clear intention of murder and as such, he must be held criminally responsible for his acts. On appeal or reconsideration of the court, this claim would probably be overturned. Modern courts of the United States generally do not accept impossibility as a defense. West Law Corporation, 2010)
A Defendant may claim impossibility as a defense, and rightly, the courts often look at the facts of each case to determine if the claim to impossibility is proper. The courts have long ruled that a factual impossibility without the renouncing of committing the crime by a defendant, have no legal standing as a defense, because the defendant still possessed all of the criminal intents to commit the crime. In the case of defendants where only the extraneous factor kept him from completing the crime, should he be allowed to shirk his criminal responsibility?
Clearly, the answer is no. The laws are to protect the society from criminal acts, and their intent was to commit a criminal act against it. Legal Impossibility can only be claimed when a defendant believes he is committing a crime, but actually is not. In this case, murder is a crime and therefore this does not apply. There are rare cases in which an inherent impossibility exists which are circumstances that a defendant could not under those present circumstances be absolutely unable to complete the crime.