This crime is exactly what it sounds like – you tried but failed to murder your target, or were otherwise prevented from doing so. The victim can be an adult, a child or even a fetus. In general, to be convicted of attempted murder, the jury must find true that:
you sincerely intended to murder the victim (as that term is defined in the California Penal Code – see below); and
you took at least one direct step to accomplish that goal.
See Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instructions (“CALCRIM”) number 600 at: https://www.justia.com/criminal/docs/calcrim/500/600/.
This first element can be proved through direct or circumstantial evidence but is otherwise fairly straightforward and self-explanatory. To put it another way, you must have had the “specific intent” to kill the purported victim, as opposed to merely a general intent to hurt him or her.
The second element is where nuances can apply, and as discussed below, where your defense may very well be based upon. Specifically, a “direct step” requires much more than mere preparation; instead, you must be found by a jury to have tried to stab, shoot or have otherwise used some method to kill the victim (for example, you tried to hire a hitman).
Indeed, this element is so critical that you can be convicted of attempted murder even if you ultimately abandoned the plan so long as you took that initial direct step.
Finally, you can be convicted of this crime even if you killed someone in your “murder zone” – i.e., the area around or near where your intended target was located at the time of the attempt – even if he or she was not your intended target.
For example, you tried to run over your ex-boyfriend with your car but lost control and, instead, struck and seriously injured his new wife. See People v. Bland (2002) 28 Cal.4th 313, 331 at: https://scocal.stanford.edu/opinion/people-v-bland-32275.
California Statutes Regarding Homicide Crimes – Attempted Murder
Homicide crimes are codified at California Penal Code sections 187 through 199, but there is no separate statute governing attempted murder, save that regarding punishments relating thereto (see below).
Notwithstanding, just as with murder itself, attempted murder can be divided into degrees – first and second, and therefore we must look at the murder codes to determine which category your case falls into.
California Penal Code sections 188 & 189
First-degree murder involves the cold, calculated, deliberate killing of another human being with evil intention and with sufficient premeditation. This is known as “malice aforethought”.
See Penal Code section 188 at: https://codes.findlaw.com/ca/penal-code/pen-sect-188.html; see also Penal Code section 189 at: https://codes.findlaw.com/ca/penal-code/pen-sect-189.html.
Any intentional murder short of those elements will fall into the second-degree category, pursuant to Pen. Code § 189.
Convictions and Sentencing Terms for Homicide Crimes – Attempted Murder
Based on the foregoing, then, if you are convicted of attempted murder, your punishment will be as follows:
Second-Degree Attempted Murder
Pursuant to California Penal Code section 664(a), you would receive five, seven, or nine years in a state penal institution. See: https://codes.findlaw.com/ca/penal-code/pen-sect-664.html.
First-Degree Attempted Murder
If the attempt was deliberate and premeditated (again, with malice aforethought), then the punishment is the same as if you had been successful – life with possible parole. Pen. Code § 664(a).
Sentencing Enhancements – “Three Strikes Law”
Attempted murder is a “strike” offense under Penal Code section 667.5(c), as well as Penal Code section 1192.7(c)(1). See: https://codes.findlaw.com/ca/penal-code/pen-sect-667-5.html; see also: https://codes.findlaw.com/ca/penal-code/pen-sect-1192-7.html.
As a result, if you are convicted of attempted murder, you will receive an additional five-year enhancement for any prior convictions for a “serious felony” or “violent felony” as described in these two statutes. See Penal Code section 667(a)(1) at: https://codes.findlaw.com/ca/penal-code/pen-sect-667.html.
However, if this attempted-murder conviction now counts as a second strike conviction, your sentence will be doubled. Pen. Code § 667(e)(1).
And if this attempted-murder conviction is a third strike, you will receive a twenty-five-to-life term. Pen. Code § 667(2)(A).
Sentencing Enhancements – Miscellaneous
Additional enhancements include, but are not limited to, the following:
personal use of a gun or deadly weapon;
gang/organized crime enhancement;
very young or very old victim; and
In addition to prison time, you can also expect to face the following punishments (although other punitive measures may also be ordered by the judge):
loss of gun rights;
loss of child custody;
dishonorable discharge from the military or loss or enlistment opportunity;
loss of professional license or loss of opportunity relating thereto;
permanent restraining orders;
restitution to your victim; and
maximum ten-thousand-dollar fine.
Defenses to Homicide Crimes – Attempted Murder Charges
The following are all viable ways to attack an attempted murder charge:
self-defense of yourself or another;
you only intended to injure – not kill – the purported victim;
lack of capacity to kill or diminished capacity to do so;
you took an indirect step to kill, or otherwise took no such step;
you set out to take a direct step but abandoned the plot before you could complete that step; and
you did not act willfully, deliberately, or with premeditation (defense to first-degree attempted murder).
See CALCRIM no. 600 (“Attempted Murder”); see also CALCRIM no. 601 (“Attempted Murder: Deliberation and Premeditation”) at: https://www.justia.com/criminal/docs/calcrim/500/600/.
Examples of Homicide Crimes – Attempted Murder Cases
Whittier gang member sentenced to 35 years for attempted murder and attempted carjacking
On or about April 2, 2014, a twenty-seven-year-old alleged gang member, Whittier resident Jessie Duran, allegedly walked up to a man in a car parked in front of his Whittier residence and insisted he give it to him. The purported victim escaped in the vehicle, reported the incident to Whittier PD, then returned home.
Before he exited his vehicle, however, the man once again allegedly saw Duran walk up to him. According to authorities, they began arguing, at which point Duran pulled out a firearm. As the man drove away, Duran allegedly fired multiple bullets at him but only managed to strike a passing vehicle. (Fortunately, no one was injured.)
Somehow, Whittier police identified Duran as the suspect and arrested him shortly thereafter. Almost two-and-a-half years later (on or about August 18, 2016), a jury convicted Duran of the following five felonies: attempted murder, attempted carjacking, ADW (assault w/ a deadly weapon), firing at a moving vehicle with a person inside, and felon possessing a gun.
Almost eight months later (on or about April 5, 2017), Duran’s trial judge ordered him to serve three-and-a-half decades in a California penitentiary – a term which included enhancements for personal use of a firearm during the commission of a felony and committing a felony on behalf of a street gang.
Former restaurant impresario sentenced to almost a decade in prison for inducing a miscarriage
According to LAPD detectives, in October 2009, ex-bi-coastal restaurant impresario Josh Woodward (age thirty-seven) tried on at least four occasions to force his then-girlfriend Gayle Greaves (an Angeleno) to miscarry their unborn baby by secretly giving her an abortion pharmaceutical. (Woodward was one of the owners of the LA and Miami restaurants called Table 8, as well as other restaurants in Chicago and NYC.)
The LA Co. DA’s Office claimed that he had crushed the drug and inserted its particles into food Greaves ate. Among other evidence submitted at the preliminary hearing were documentation that purportedly proved Woodward had made incriminating searches on his home computer relating to inducing miscarriages for unwanted pregnancies.
Greaves was more than three months’ pregnant at the time and did, in fact, lose the fetus so it’s unclear why Woodward was not charged with first-degree murder. It also remains unclear why it took more than six years – until mid November 2015 – for Woodward to plead nolo contendre to a single count of attempted murder. Ten weeks later, at the end of January 2016, he received a 9-year term in a California penitentiary.
Former LAPD CRASH-unit officer receives five years for paralyzing and framing 19-year-old man
Gino Durden was inarguably one of the most corrupt officers to ever serve in the LAPD (or any police department for that matter), and was one of the key figures in the notorious Rampart scandal that plagued Los Angeles – and terrorized innumerable Angelenos – during the 1990s.
A member of the equally notorious and hyper-aggressive CRASH anti-gang unit, Durden would ultimately plead guilty to a shocking array of criminal and civil rights violations, including the attempted murder of an unarmed nineteen-year-old alleged gang member, Javier Ovando, in mid October 1996.
Durden and his accomplice/fellow CRASH unit member, the equally notorious Rafael Perez, burst into Ovando’s apartment to rob him because they believed he was a drug dealer. Things went awry and Durden ended up shooting Ovando in the back, permanently paralyzing him. He then planted illegal narcotics and a gun on him, then claimed Ovando had fired at them.
As a result of Durden’s trial testimony, Ovando was sentenced to thirty-three years in prison, but fortunately only served three after Perez flipped and testified against Durden. It was Perez’s cooperation that led to Durden’s arrest in July 2000, and his prosecution for multiple felonies, including attempted murder, ADW, making a false police report, and perjury.
On or about August 5, 2002, Durden pled guilty to six felonies, including those four charges and for conspiracy and obstruction of justice. He was sentenced to five years in prison, which ran concurrently with a three-year federal sentence for similar federal charges.
Durden’s extremely light sentences resulted from his own cooperation against other Rampart officers, which led to the conviction of at least four of his former CRASH officers, whose convictions were all overturned on appeal. By all accounts, however, the corruption in the Rampart division apparently went all the way to the very top but the LAPD brass put a stop to any higher-ups being investigated. The LAPD administration also reportedly stonewalled the FBI on their initial investigation into the Rampart division. As for Ovando, he received the largest civil settlement in the history of the LAPD.
Examples of Homicide Crimes – Attempted Murder Cases Involving Celebrities
Diff’rent Strokes TV star Todd Bridges acquitted in two trials for shooting of alleged crack dealer
On or about February 1, 1989, former TV star Todd Bridges (NBC’s hit show Diff’rent Strokes) home-invaded a crack house in South-Central LA and shot alleged drug dealer Ken Clay eight times. According to police, Bridges (age twenty-four) was furious at Clay because he believed he had stolen Bridges’ vehicle.
Clay miraculously survived and fingered Bridges and his alleged accomplice Harvey Duckett to the LAPD. As a result, Bridges was arrested and charged with attempted murder and ADW. Bridges would later claim that he was so high on cocaine at the time that he had no idea whether or not he shot Clay!
The LA Co. DA’s Office tried Bridges twice on these charges with the first trial taking place in December 1989. Fortunately for the former actor, the jury acquitted him of the attempted murder charge despite the fact that both Clay and Duckett testified against him.
Of course, it certainly didn’t hurt Bridges to have the late, great Johnny Cochran defending him. If convicted, Bridges could have received a life sentence – particularly because of the enhancement for the victim’s severe injuries and for the personal discharge of a firearm. However, the jury hung on the ADW charge, which was the only charge facing him at the second trial.
On or about August 23, 1990, Bridges was again acquitted, thereby sparing him a possible seven-year prison term, despite the fact that two additional witnesses testified that they had seen him in the crack house with a semi-automatic pistol – one of whom also claimed she had seen him actually shoot the victim.
Cochran, however, called two defense witnesses who lived next door to the crack house and whom testified that they saw Bridges exit the residence before they had heard the gunshots. Cochran also proved that Clay’s bloodstains were not on Bridges’ clothes, and only on Duckett’s, who, of course, had previously made a deal to testify against Bridges.
Former Food Network chef pleads no contest to trying to hire homeless men to kill his wife
In late April 2010, as he would later admit as part of his plea deal, former Food Network TV star chef Juan-Carlos Cruz (Calorie Commando) approached two homeless men, David Carrington and David Walters, at the Cheviot Hills Park for the purpose of murdering his wife, Jennifer Campbell.
According to insiders interviewed by CNN, Cruz believed the murder would be a merciful act because she had been suffering from severe depression following a two-decades’-long failed struggle to conceive a child – an ordeal which drained their life savings (for fertility treatments).
The sources reportedly told CNN that Campbell wanted to commit suicide but refused to do so because she was a strict Catholic and, therefore, would be excommunicated if she did so. It remains unclear as to whether or not she knew about the murder-for-hire plot.
According to the DA’s Office, Cruz offered the men a total of one thousand dollars to kill her and even went so far as to drive one of them to their home, provide him with the code to their alarm, and show him how to surreptitiously enter the house. (These are three direct steps, as discussed above.)
One of the men, however, informed Santa Monica PD of the plot after being arrested for loitering. Both Davids then cooperated with SMPD in a sting operation conducted at the same park (which is close to the Century City mall).
As a result, police arrested Cruz on or about May 12, 2010. He eventually pled nolo contendre to attempted murder in exchange for prosecutors dropping the solicitation of murder count. On or about December 12, 2010, he received a nine-year sentence with eligibility for parole in 4.5 years with good behavior.
Actress Teresa Saldana is stabbed ten times by a mentally disturbed man but fortunately survives
In early 1982, Arthur Jackson, a mentally disturbed fan (age forty-seven) illegally emigrated from Scotland on a mission to murder actress Teresa Saldana (1980’s Raging Bull) so they could be rejoined in the afterlife after he was executed for her death.
After arriving in LA, he used a PI to get her mom’s telephone number, then called her pretending to be a famous director who wanted to hire Saldana in order to get her address. Her mother disclosed it and in mid March 1982, Jackson appeared at Saldana’s WeHo home.
When she answered the door, he stabbed her almost a dozen times. Fortunately, a passerby intervened, stopped the attack, and saved her life. (Also fortunately, she would make a full recovery.)
Jackson was charged with attempted murder and eventually sentenced to a dozen years in prison. He was released in mid June 1989 after serving less than eight despite the fact that he had written and mailed Saldana numerous letters while confined wherein he repeated his desire to kill her.
Back then, however, criminal threats were not a crime and thus Jackson was not charged with additional offenses. Saldana became an ardent victim’s rights advocate and was instrumental in helping pass a law criminalizing such threats. (She also starred in a TV movie about the ordeal.)
Although Jackson was released, he was immediately remanded to a psychiatric facility where he remained until he died in 2004.
Examples of Homicide Crimes – Attempted Murder Cases Previously Handled by LADALF
Ninaz Saffari gets potential attempted murder and ADW charges dismissed against 15-year-old boy
In re R.S.: A Beverly Hills high school sophomore was accused of, and arrested for, suspicion of running over another teenager in a stolen BMW and inflicting severe physical injuries on him. As a result, he was facing an attempted murder charge, ADW (the vehicle), and related crimes.
The boy’s family hired a “big name” attorney who took their money but otherwise did nothing (including return their frantic calls) aside from making numerous continuances, leaving the youth in a juvenile detention facility for almost two months until Ninaz took over the case.
She immediately visited the teen in the detention facility (which, of course, the previous attorney hadn’t bothered to do) and carefully explained the facts, evidence, and charges in the case.
She then quickly scheduled an in-person conference with herself, the teen’s parents, and his P.O., who, as a result, understood that he came from a respectable background, had never been in trouble before, and deserved the P.O.’s support.
Even better, Ninaz was able to establish that the teen had only been a passenger, had nothing to do with the stolen car, and had no idea the driver – the vehicle owner’s daughter – was going to run over the other boy. Result: diversion and dismissal.
Attempted murder charge dismissed against client at preliminary hearing due to insufficient evidence
People v. T.M.: Client was alleged to have been involved in a violent altercation in which he had the specific intent to murder one of the purported victims at the scene. As such, the client was facing a possible life sentence. At the preliminary hearing at the Inglewood courthouse (which took place in October 2019), Ninaz was able to provide irrefutable evidence that her client not only didn’t even know the purported victim, but that he had acted out of self-defense and, therefore, never formed the intent to kill. As a result, the attempted murder charge was dismissed.
First-degree attempted murder charge reduced to attempted voluntary manslaughter following three-week jury trial
People v. R.C.: Client was charged with premeditated and deliberate attempted murder (a violent-strike felony), so the Deputy DA was seeking life with parole (including sentencing enhancements for a strike offense and personal use of a deadly weapon). Specifically, the client had stabbed the victim at least thirty times, literally disemboweling him. During trial, however, Ninaz presented evidence proving that the two individuals had previously engaged in mutual combat, and that the victim had previously threatened him. The jury found true this "imperfect self-defense" and, therefore, only convicted him of attempted V.M. (no strike or enhancements). With a sentence of just over eight years, he could be out in four with credit for time served and good behavior.
Examples of Homicide Crimes – Attempted Murder Cases Currently Being Handled by LADALF
People v. M.: Ninaz’s client is being prosecuted for shooting two individuals at a house party during a brawl – one of whom died. As a result, he’s currently facing two life sentences – one for first-degree murder and one for (first-degree) attempted murder. Currently awaiting trial at the Long Beach courthouse – delayed because of Covid-19.
People v. N.: Ninaz’s client is alleged to have deliberately and with premeditation murdered two people at a house party, and wounded two others – all with a firearm. This is a capital murder case with a potential death penalty, at worst, if convicted or, at best, life without possibility of parole. He’s also facing two additional life sentences with parole for two (first-degree) attempted murder charges. Also currently awaiting trial at the Long Beach courthouse.
People v. B.: Client is accused of (second-degree) attempted murder for shooting at a driver in a vehicle in downtown Los Angeles. His co-defendant is also alleged to have fired at the same purported victim. Currently awaiting trial at the Criminal Courts building in DTLA.
The Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm (LADALF)
As you can see from the preceding examples, LADALF founder Ninaz Saffari has extensive experience and unequalled skill in obtaining outstanding results for her clients facing attempted murder charges. In fact, she has successfully taken on hundreds of clients facing virtually every imaginable type of violent-crime offense, beginning with her four-year stint at the number one Public Defender’s Office in the state (if not the entire country) – in Los Angeles County (DTLA).