Criminal Law, Pages 507–511

Commonwealth v. Nee

Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, 2010

Facts:

Defendant, a high school student, invited fellow students Farley, Sullivan, and Kern to carry out a mass shooting at their school. Defendant and Kern came up with a plan to shoot specific people, create diversions for the police, plant napalm and explosives, and lock the doors. They created lists of the needed supplies, acquired some of these supplies, made lists of people to kill, got maps of the school, attempted to create the napalm and explosives, and performed target practice with BB guns. Defendant said that he wanted to be exactly like one of the Columbine murderers. He further threatened students about talking to the police and tried to get guns for the plot.

Eventually however, defendant got upset at Kern when he tried to commit suicide and went to the hospital to recover. Defendant, Farley, and Sullivan then went to the police. Defendant told the others to let him do the talking, and he described defendant's plans in detail. However, none of the three admitted they planned to participate in the plan. Police nonetheless arrested the defendant and searched his home, finding a list of supplies and weaponry in a notebook and Internet searches about weapons and explosives. Farley and Sullivan were granted immunity in exchange for their testimony.

Procedural History:

Defendant was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder.

Issue:

Did defendant renounce his conspiracy?

Rule:

Model Penal Code § 5.03(6)

It is an affirmative defense that the actor, after conspiring to commit a crime, thwarted the success of the conspiracy, under circumstances manifesting a complete and voluntary renunciation of his criminal purpose.

Reasoning:

Defendant may have thwarted Kern's criminal purpose, but he did not manifest a renunciation of his own criminal purpose. One cannot renounce a conspiracy without acknowledging that he conspired to commit a crime. Since defendant did not admit that he also agreed to commit the crime, he cannot use the renunciation defense. To allow one to would defeat the purpose of the defense since it is intended to incentivize those in a conspiracy to desist from their criminal designs, which one might not do if he does not reveal his own crime.

Holding:

No, defendant did not renounce his conspiracy. Affirmed.

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