Philadelphia Criminal Law News

SEPTA Train Shooting Injures 2 Teens: Was It Attempted Murder?

We all grew up with high-school rivalries. The rivalries then grew into college rivalries, which then blossomed into city rivalries. Nobody from Penn State likes Pitt and vice-versa. Just like nobody from Philly is going to root for the Giants.

While these rivalries only extend to name-calling and boos on the field, some school-to-school animosity may have made itself known on SEPTA's Broad Street Line in North Philadelphia. Two teenagers in a subway car were shot, one in the arm and the other in the leg, by another teen on the platform at the Susquehanna-Dauphin station, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. The train was carrying students from Simon Gratz High School, Samuel Fels High School, and John F. Hartranft, a K-8 school.

Can this shooting be classified as attempted murder, or will it just be aggravated assault?

The main issue that determines what crime will be charged is the intent of the person committing the crime. A charge of first-degree murder requires that the perpetrator have the intent to kill. Most states also require premeditation, which only means that there was time to form the intent to kill. Courts have held that just a few seconds can be enough time to form such an intent.

Attempted murder means that the intent to kill existed, but that no one actually died. An attempt charge can be levied on someone who didn't even get close to killing someone, but had planned to do so and taken steps to carry it out.

On the other hand, aggravated assault is when someone intentionally harms or threatens another person, generally with a weapon. Causing injury lengthens any potential sentence and usually upgrades a charge from misdemeanor to felony.

In the SEPTA train shooting, the gunman will likely face attempted murder charges. Though the shooter probably won't admit that he intended to kill, the fact that someone was shot in the arm means that there was a possibility he could've been shot in the chest; from that, a jury may be able to infer an intent to kill.

The shooter's criminal defense attorney would have to present evidence showing that there was only the intent to frighten or injure. This would lower the crime to an aggravated assault. However, if either victim were to die, there would certainly be a charge of second-degree murder or manslaughter.

It's not yet clear what triggered the SEPTA train shooting. Police took one teenager into custody, but they have not yet caught the gunman, the Inquirer reports.

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