Santa Clara University is normally considered to be a safe campus; its Jesuit heritage and tradition make it a particularly odd place for violent crime. However, just before the Lenten season, a time of penance, reflection, and sacrifice for members of the Catholic Church, one roommate seems to have turned his aggression on another. A 19-year-old student living in Graham Hall allegedly repeatedly stabbed his roommate, then turned the knife on himself in an attempt to commit suicide. The young supposed assailant is now being held on charges of attempted murder, as his roommate is expected to survive his injuries. His fellow students remain concerned about their classmates and how this may affect general life at the university from now on.
A case like this will be difficult, both for law enforcement officials and for students and professors at Santa Clara University. According to California law (CA Penal Code 664 concerning attempted crimes), there are many different factors to consider when determining whether an attempted murder has actually taken place. First, there are several things that prosecutors must be able to prove if they are to successfully convict an individual of attempted murder. Among these are a) whether that individual took what is called a ‘direct step’ towards murdering an individual and b) that in taking that ‘direct step,’ murder was the intended result. Here, you have to do more than plan to kill someone, you have to actually act on that plan.
As can be seen from the outset, it is difficult for prosecutors to successfully convict when it comes to attempted murder charges. There are too many vague possibilities for a jury to consider, like that of whether or not specific behavior amounts to a ‘direct action’ and whether or not that direct action would certainly end in the death of the alleged victim. If convicted of an attempted crime, the rule is that you will spend about half the time in jail that you would have if you had carried out the crime to its conclusion. In the case of attempted murder, a first-degree attempted murder charge will likely end in a life sentence. However, in order to be a first-degree murder, it must be proven that you deliberately intended to kill the other person and that you planned the crime. A conviction of this kind will usually lead to life in prison without parole. Second-degree attempted murder (one that was spontaneous, not planned), however, carries a lighter sentence of 5-9 years in state prison.