Tuesday, May 23, 2006

From the Vault: Can a Person Attempt to Murder Someone Already Dead?

In People v. Dlugash, 395 N.Y.S.2d 419 (N.Y. Ct. App. 1977), Geller was found shot to death in his bedroom, and the autopsy revealed that he had been shot by two weapons, a .25 and a .38 caliber pistol. The .25s were found in the victim's head and the .38 had pierced his heart.

When he was interrogated, Dlugash alleged that he fired his pistol into Geller's face after his comrade had shot Geller in the chest and the victim had fallen to the floor. He alleged that when he shot Geller, that Geller was not moving and his eyes were closed. In short, his statement was that the victim was already dead.

Dlugash was convicted of attempted murder and the Appellate Division reversed, stating that the defendant had attempted to murder a dead man.

The Court of Appeals reversed the Appellate Division and reinstated the conviction for attempted murder, finding that the jury could have concluded the defendant believed Geller was alive when he shot him and that Dlugash's purpose was to administer the coup de grace.


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