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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Are You Trying To Kill Me? Yes Or No!

This morning when I logged into Meebo, I noticed that a patron had left us this question:
Why doesn't Mississippi have a law for attempted murder?
Well, I'm definitely not a lawyer, and as a reference librarian, I'm not allowed to attempt any interpretation of the law, but I, naturally, thought, "Piffle! Of course Mississippi has a law for attempted murder!" First I turned to the Mississippi Code (Did you know you can access it online here?) and flipped through the index to Homicide (§ 97-3-15 - § 97-3-47). Attempted murder was not listed, but funnily enough, right above homicide (found in the chapter on Crimes Against the Person) is a law entitled § 97-3-1 Abduction For Purposes Of Marriage. Apparently it is illegal to force anyone over the age of fourteen to marry you. Good, at least I'm covered there! I tried the same search with manslaughter (nope) and began to become suspicious. Could it be? Was my patron right after all? Does Mississippi not have an attempted murder law?

I turned next to Lexis-Nexis State Capitol, one of our subscription databases where it is possible to look up past legislation. It turns out that nearly every year since 1992 someone has introduced legislation proposing that attempted murder become a criminal offense along with associated penalties. Guess what! Every year that it has been introduced the bill has died! I even spoke with Representative Bill Denny, who sponsored so many of these bills. He expressed his frustration about the failure for the bill to pass in the past, but stated that he plans to try again this year.

I did a quick Google search and found a news article from a few years ago all about this very topic. Donnie Register, a man who was shot in the head during an armed robbery stated
When I said that it was attempted murder, (police officers) said ‘We don’t have that charge.'

This article from the Jackson Free Press is even more recent and iterates the same thing. I did turn up several blog posts from enterprising law field people like this one and this one, but these leave a lot of room for interpretation and you remember, I'm not allowed to do any legal interpretation! One of those blog entries references § 97-1-7, and sure enough, it is entitled Attempt To Commit Offense; Punishment. I think I remember why I decided to go into a field other than law when I started college--This is all very confusing!

I finally decided that I don't know if Mississippi has an attempted murder charge. It kind of doesn’t look like we do, at least not one that is called “attempted murder.” We might! We might not! Here, however, are some sources for legal services in Mississippi that may help you in your search.

Good luck, Meebo patron! And thank goodness for lawyers out there who do real live legal interpretation!

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