In the case of State v. Davis (319 Mo. 1222, 6 S.W.2d 609 (1928)), Davis and Lourie wanted to kill Lourie’s husband so they could get the insurance money. They tried to hire a hitman, but ended up with an undercover policeman (Dill) instead. They gave Dill information and money. He arrested them for attempted murder.
- The Missouri Supreme Court overturned the conviction because the Court felt that Davis and Lourie’s actions did not rise to the level of an attempt, but were only preparations that did not lead directly or proximately to the consummation of the intended crime.
- The Court noted that Dill never had an intention of murdering Lourie’s husband, and took no actions beyond listening to Davis and Lourie and taking their money. Therefore there was no way the murder could have actually been committed. How can someone be guilty of attempt for a crime that has no chance of actually being committed?
On the other hand, in the case of United States v. Church (29 M.J. 679 (1989)), Church wanted to kill his wife to get custody of their child. He hired a hitman (who was actually a policeman). He gave the hitman money and guns and sent him on his way. Later the hitman came back with fake photos of Church’s wife’s body, took Church’s money, and then arrested him.
- In this case the Court of Military Appeals upheld the conviction. They found that Church had taken a substantial step toward the commission of the crime. There was nothing else Church could have done to effect the crime. He “armed a missile and fired it off, fully believing it was aimed directly at his intended victim.”
These two cases show two different approaches to solicitation. In Davis, the Court found that contracting out for crimes is merely preparation and not an attempt because the acts are not in dangerous proximity to the actual crime. In Church, the Court found that in order to count for an attempt, the acts need only be a substantial step in the commission of the crime.
- Most jurisdictions have criminalized soliciting murder, but the penalties are significantly lower than for actual attempted murder.
- See Model Penal Code §5.02.