Jason D. Lamm Attorney at Law A Boutique Criminal Defense Firm Serving Phoenix

Could Harambe The Gorilla Be Charged With Attempted Murder?

By now, we’ve all seen it. A really dumb parent put her young child on a rail overlooking the enclosure for Harambe the Gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo. Truth is, it could have Cincinnati, Phoenix, or any other major city where this happened. No matter the city, parents who take their kids to the zoo often forget that they are visiting wild animals that are being kept in captivity for their viewing pleasure.

When the child fell into the enclosure, Harambe threw the child around like a rag doll. Did he see the child as a toy or a foe? It really didn’t matter as either way, the child was going to get hurt, if not killed. Zoo personnel made the decision that Harambe had to be put down for his crimes before it was too late.

Did Harmabe Commit a Crime (Assuming he was human, of course)?

Clearly, none of this was intentional. Gorillas are wild animals and they play rough. But let’s say, for the moment, that Harambe was not a 400 pound Gorilla and that he was a human being. What could he be charged with?

There Is No Such Crime as Attempted Reckless Murder

An attempt to commit a crime requires a knowing and intentional effort to engage in a substantial step toward the commission of a crime. A reckless act, on the other hand, does not involve a deliberate action, but rather, a conscious disregard of a known risk. So the bottom line is that Harambe could not have intentionally tried to commit an unintentional act. It’s so simple that even a gorilla can figure that one out.

Child Abuse Does Not Have to Be Intentional

Under Arizona law, one can commit the crime of child abuse by recklessly placing the health, safety, or life of a minor in danger. The degree of potential injury dictates the seriousness and the potential penalty of the child abuse charge. Child abuse need not be intentional in Arizona, and instead can be committed by either recklessness or even criminal negligence.

So while I could have walked Harambe on the attempted murder charge, defending him on a child abuse charge would have been as slippery as a banana peel. We all saw in the video how the child could have been serious injured, if not killed, when Harambe got ahold of him. Sadly, all that needed to happen was for the child’s skull to smash into a concrete wall for Harambe to have murdered him, even if just by recklessness. That charge, though, would likely be a manslaughter offense, and not murder.

The Consequences of a Child Abuse Charge Can Look Like a 400 LB. Gorilla

The potential penalties for child abuse charges are serious in that they can involve prison terms, lifetime probation, let alone the loss of one’s parental rights. And while Jason Lamm does not represent clients in DCS / CPS matters, he has represented dozens of clients charged with child abuse over the last three decades – many who have been falsely accused. By assembling a team of investigators and experts, Jason is able to provide his clients the best representation for his clients who are charged with child abuse and other violent crimes such as aggravated assault and attempted murder.

If you or someone you love is facing serious felony charges, contact Jason Lamm at (602) 663-9100 to set up a personal and confidential consultation.