The People v. Benito Lendof-Gonzalez (People's Appeal)


Issue: Can you be convicted of attempted murder for hiring a hitman to kill your mother-in-law?

Held: Nope. Go to town. Just make sure your contract killer doesn't take any actual steps to carry out the agreement. (And be prepared to face other charges.)

CAL Observes: In New York, you can ask someone to kill your wife and mother-in-law, specify in a "detailed plan" how the murder should be carried out (complete with a map, fake suicide note, and secret code), go over the "game plan" with the hitman, and offer him a house in consideration, and still not attempt to commit murder. Luckily for the defendant (and the wife and mother-in-law), his contract killer was actually an informant and didn't do anything to further the plan. So, none of the defendant's actions crossed the line separating mere intent or preparation from actual steps coming "dangerously close" to accomplishing the crime. 

This ruling sounds odd, but it actually makes good sense. This defendant committed criminal solicitation, not attempted murder. (He probably also conspired to commit murder, which only required proof of an overt act in furtherance of the agreement, but the prosecution did not charge him with that crime.) The Court was right that the defendant's conduct, however misguided, did not leave the realm of "preparation" and certainly did not come "dangerously close" to the commission of a murder. 

Judge Rivera dissented, which she does a lot, but usually not to side with the government. Maybe it was just a reflex?