A 74 year old man walks his dog in the park. He is approached by a person on a bicycle who asks him for money. When the man replies that he has no money, the bicyclist punches him in the head a few times, knocking him out.
Then the man comes to, he drives himself to the hospital where he reports the crime. While there, he suffers a stroke and is pronounced partially brain dead -- he will never again "live" again without using life supporting machinery.
The man had filed an advance directive stating that he did not want to be kept alive by artificial means. He is removed from life support and sent to hospice where he dies.
If the bicyclist is ever caught, what crime do you think he should be charged with?
The State of Oregon's homicide statutes are based on the Model Penal Code. Here's the general criminal homicide statute:
163.005 Criminal homicide.
(1) A person commits criminal homicide if, without justification or excuse, the person intentionally, knowingly, recklessly or with criminal negligence causes the death of another human being.
(2) “Criminal homicide” is murder, manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide or aggravated vehicular homicide.
Embedded within this MPC format is the rule that the conduct in question must actually cause the result (death). Accordingly, the subsequent stroke might be an intervening cause that breaks the chain of causation between the offender's act and the result (death). Also, the state must meet the concurrence requirement. That means that the mens rea (i.e., intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or negligently) and the forbidden act (causing the death of another) must be joined. In other words, the mens rea must be the reason why the act takes place.
If the offender is charged with murder
(intentional or knowing homicide), the state has the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the offender intended to cause the death of old man when he punched the old man in the head OR that the offender knows that punching the old man in the head will cause his death.
If the offender is charged with manslaughter
(reckless homicide), the state has the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the offender was aware that punching the old man in the head constituted a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the act would cause the old man's death, but that the offender consciously disregarded that substantial and unjustifiable risk and went ahead and punched the old man in the head.
Criminal negligence is a tricky
. It is defined as follows:
161.085 Definitions with respect to culpability.
(10) “Criminal negligence” or “criminally negligent,” when used with respect to a result or to a circumstance described by a statute defining an offense, means that a person fails to be aware of a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the result will occur or that the circumstance exists. The risk must be of such nature and degree that the failure to be aware of it constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would observe in the situation.
In other words, it must be foreseeable to a reasonable person that punching an old man in the head may likely cause the old man to suffer a stroke that will cause the old man to require life support, and that in the absence of of life support, the man will die.
Based on the foregoing and the perhaps unforeseeable stroke and the consequences of that stroke, I don't think the prosecution will choose to charge the offender with criminal homicide. I think it would be difficult to prove that the offender intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or negligently caused the death of the old man.
There is another avenue that perhaps the state might pursue under the felony murder rule. See Section 163.115.
However, this statute still requires the offender to CAUSE the death of another
in the course of and in furtherance of the commission or attempted commission of an enumerated felony or during the immediate flight therefrom. Because the subsequent stroke and the resulting need for life support and the absence of life support due to decisions of others could be considered intervening causes rather than the proximate cause of the offender's conduct, I don't think the state can prove felony murder.
I believe the offender will be charged with a crime under the heading ASSAULT and RELATED OFFENSES for intentionally or knowingly or recklessly causing (via hitting the man on the head) physical injury to another.
The offender might also be charged with a crime under the heading ROBBERY:
164.395 Robbery in the third degree.
(1) A person commits the crime of robbery in the third degree if in the course of committing or attempting
to commit theft or unauthorized use of a vehicle as defined in ORS 164.135 the person uses or threatens the immediate use of physical force upon another person with the intent of:
(a) Preventing or overcoming resistance to the taking of the property or to retention thereof immediately after the taking; or
(b) Compelling the owner of such property or another person to deliver the property or to engage in other conduct which might aid in the commission of the theft or unauthorized use of a vehicle.
(2) Robbery in the third degree is a Class C felony. [1971 c.743 §148; 2003 c.357 §1]
Based on the fact scenario provided, however, the offender merely asked the old man for money and the old man said he didn't have any money. It is unknown whether at the time the offender was "asking" for money if the offender was in fact attempting a theft and threatening the man with physical violence if he didn't hand over his money or was using physical violence to compel the victim to hand over his money.