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