Commonwealth v. Peaslee
Supreme Judicial Court of MA - 1901
- D had constructed and arranged combustible items in a building in such a way that they were ready to be lighted and would have set fire to the building and its contents.
- The D offered to pay one of his employees to light the candle that would start the blaze. The employee refused.
- D later was driving to the building to carry out the plan. When within a quarter mile of the building, D changed his mind and drove away.
- D was charged with attempted arson.
- Trial court found D guilty of attempted arson.
- MA Supreme Judicial Court reversed, D not guilty.
- What kinds of actions move away from mere preparation to attempt?
- Actions that are dangerous in proximity to the underlying crime may be held to be attempts. Also, less proximity is necessary when the apprehension of the underlying crime is especially high.
- Preparation is not an attempt. But some preparations may amount to attempt. It is a question of degree.
- A mere collection and preparation of materials in a room for the purpose of setting fire to them, unaccompanied by any present intent to set the fire, would be too remote.
- The indictment failed to allege the fact that the D solicited the help of his employee to set the fire. If this fact had been alleged, then this action would probably stand.
- Dangerous proximity test used.