Jack, Bert, and Pratt: Was the Court Correct?

by Tabetha Cooper

Crime Time
Crime Time (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Bert and Pratt where sitting in Bert’s car when Jack approached and attempted to shoot Bert.  Jack missed Bert and hit Pratt, killing him.  Jack then made a second attempt to shoot Bert but the gun jammed, so Jack decided to leave.  He threw the gun in the glove compartment and drove off.  Once apprehended Jack’s attorney filed a motion to dismiss the charge of attempted murder on Bert because there was no way he could have killed Bert after the gun jammed.  The court granted the motion.  In this paper it will be discussed whether or not the court was correct in doing this and any ethical or moral breaches in allowing a criminal to escape punishment based on a defense such as impossibility.
            To even begin to decide if the court’s decision to dismiss the charges was correct we need to evaluate attempt.  For an attempt to be an attempt three factors need to be present: intent to commit a crime, an act to move toward committing the crime, and to actually fail at committing the crime (Lippman, 2006, pp. 187).  There are two classifications of attempts: complete yet imperfect attempt and incomplete attempt.  A complete yet imperfect attempt is when a criminal, such as Jack, takes every step to commit a crime but for one reason or another is unable to complete the crime.  An 
Black's law Dictionary, photo by user:alex756
Black's law Dictionary, photo by user:alex756 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
incomplete attempt is when a criminal forgets about committing the crime or when some unforeseen outside force intervenes and prevents the crime from being committed (Lippman, 2006, pp.189-190).  In Jack’s case he made a complete yet imperfect attempt.  He shot and killed Pratt even though his target was Bert and would have killed Bert had the gun the he was using not jammed.         
The defense for that Jack’s lawyer based his motion of impossibility.  The defense of impossibility needs to be considered before deciding if the court’s decision was correct.  There are three impossibility defenses, factual impossibility, inherent impossibility, and legal impossibility.  According to Black’s Law Dictionary (1999), factual impossibility is “impossibility due to the fact that the illegal act cannot physically be accomplished.” Since the act could not be accomplished for reasons beyond the criminal’s control this is not a defense for attempt to commit a crime.  Inherent impossibility is when a crime cannot be committed because a condition does not exist.  In other words, the failure to commit a crime is based on the fact that a necessary condition to complete the criminal act is gone.   Black’s Law Dictionary (1999) defines legal impossibility as “impossibility due to the fact that what the defendant intended to do is not illegal.”  In this case the attempt was illegal.  Because Jack could not use factual or legal impossibility as a defense, the motion must have been based on a defense of inherent impossibility.  Using the defense of inherent 
English: Stylized handcuffs. Português: Algema...
English: Stylized handcuffs. Português: Algemas estilizadas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
impossibility, the court did not make the right decision in granting the defenses motion to dismiss the charges against Jack.
Even with the court making the wrong decision legally there are also ethical and moral violations to consider when absolving someone of an attempted crime.  It is not right to the public to allow a “would be” criminal to not be punished for the crime that they would have committed had there not been something from preventing the crime.  In Jack’s case, especially if for some reason he was acquitted for the murder Pratt; it would be unjust to the public to allow him back on the street.  Jack would have killed Bert had his gun not jammed.  If Jack somehow is acquitted for Pratt’s murder or only serves a few years and returns to the streets, he may again try to murder Bert and this time succeed.
It can clearly be seen that the court made the wrong decision to grant the motion proposed by the defense to drop the charges of the attempted murder on Bert.  The law would clearly hold Jack responsible for his attempt.  In addition to the law, ethical and moral reasons hold that Jack should have had to stand trial on the charge.  The prosecution should appeal the court’s decision to dismiss the charge of attempted murder.
Garner, B.A. (1999). Black’s Law Dictionary. 7th ed. West Group. St. Paul. Minn.
Lippman, M. (2007). Contemporary Criminal Law: Concepts, Cases, and Controversies. Sage                   Publishing. Thousand Oaks, Ca.


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