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Murder? Manslaughter? Assault? What?

 
 
Reply Tue 22 Sep, 2009 09:57 am
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?
 
joefromchicago
 
  4  
Reply Tue 22 Sep, 2009 10:04 am
@boomerang,
Depends on intent. Sounds like manslaughter to me, but I'd need to know more details.

I've actually thought about a similar hypothetical situation: suppose all of the facts of your story are correct, except that the bicyclist is apprehended and the victim is not taken off of life support. If the victim is still alive, the most the biker can be charged with is aggravated battery or something similar. If the victim is taken off of life support, however, the biker can be charged with manslaughter or maybe even murder. Under those circumstances, should the biker be allowed to file an injunction preventing the hospital from pulling the plug on the victim?
boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Tue 22 Sep, 2009 10:14 am
Very interesting question, joe! I honestly do not know whether he should or not. It is certainly in the bicyclists best interest for the man to stay alive in whatever condition.

This is actually a true story that I've been following in my newspaper for the last week.
contrex
 
  2  
Reply Tue 22 Sep, 2009 10:23 am
The medical evidence is crucial. If he would have died anyway because that stroke was going to happen any day, then the blow from the cyclist did not hasten or cause his death. So the charge would be assault. If the stroke was hastened or caused by the blow then possibly a grievous bodily harm or manslaughter charge might succeed. If the cyclist knew that the victim was in fragile health and might easily die, and it can be proved that the cyclist both knew this and intended to make the victim die, then maybe murder.

These are terms and notions from English legal practice. The OP has not said where the case is taking place.
Ceili
 
  1  
Reply Tue 22 Sep, 2009 10:30 am
Murder. Simply because this was not a fight, this was an attempted robbery. Two crimes.


0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Tue 22 Sep, 2009 10:34 am
@boomerang,
There was a similar case in Toronto, although in that case, the man simply died of his injuries after he arrived at hospital.
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boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Tue 22 Sep, 2009 10:44 am
This happened in the USA, contrex, but I'm interested if it would be different anywhere else in the world.

There was another case like this here too, Set. The man was shot during an armed robbery and died three or four years later. The robber, who had been convicted for the robbery and shooting was then charged and convicted of murder.

The existence of the advance directive gives this story a particularly interesting twist, in my opinion.

My state has started a database where a person can file an advance directive that will be available to paramedics and emergency room doctors so that they can have the information immediately.

It seems to add a whole new level to assault.
0 Replies
 
engineer
 
  1  
Reply Tue 22 Sep, 2009 11:34 am
@joefromchicago,
I have no idea of the true, legal answer, but I thought the perpetrator has no control over the victim's actions. I saw a court tv type of case once where a person put sugar in someone else's tank. The victim walked up and saw what was happening, but then, likely through ignorance, started the car anyway and ruined the fuel injection system. The perpetrator claimed that they should not be liable because they were caught before the damage was done, but the judge ruled that the damage was directed caused by the perpetrator and she was fully responsible for the damage. It seems like your hypothetical is similar. The perpetrator should not be able to limit the victim's rights or actions just to mitigate his responsibility.
Merry Andrew
 
  1  
Reply Tue 22 Sep, 2009 11:42 am
@contrex,
Just what I was thinking. This is an old man who suffered a stroke after being admitted to the ER as a trauma vi ctim. Is there evidence that the two are causallly related?
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  3  
Reply Tue 22 Sep, 2009 12:00 pm
@engineer,
engineer wrote:
The perpetrator should not be able to limit the victim's rights or actions just to mitigate his responsibility.

Here's how the biker in my hypothetical would respond: "I am prepared to pay the penalty for my own actions, but I'm not prepared to pay the penalty for your actions. The law says that I can only be charged for my own actions, not those of anyone else. I should be charged with A&B, because that's what I did. But it isn't fair that you can decide to make a murderer out of me just by turning off a switch. My assault ended up with the victim alive. If you want to pull the plug on him, that's your business, not mine."
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dyslexia
 
  2  
Reply Tue 22 Sep, 2009 12:11 pm
we the jury find for joefromchicago.
boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Tue 22 Sep, 2009 12:12 pm
This isn't hypothetical. It actually happened. The man died yesterday.

If I were the bicyclist that would certainly be my argument, joe. But I wonder how that works in the face of the other case I mentioned -- where the man died several years later but the man who shot him was convicted of murder. His assault left the man alive but he eventually died as a result of his wounds.
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Tue 22 Sep, 2009 02:19 pm
In the case here in Toronto, there is a 14-year-old girl being held for first degree murder--she lured the old man to a nearby cemetery. There, her accomplice attempted to rob him, which was incredibly stupid, because the old guy was homeless, and didn't have two nickels to rub together. So the man involved (who has been identified now as a 27-year-old man) beat the old guy senseless. Someone did ask a spokesman for the Crown about a claim that the old guy died because of pre-existing conditions, but the spokesman from the Crown prosecution office said it makes no difference, because the pair "acted with reckless disregard" for the consequences of their actions.
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Tue 22 Sep, 2009 02:43 pm
@boomerang,
boomerang wrote:

This isn't hypothetical. It actually happened. The man died yesterday.

I'm aware of that.

boomerang wrote:
If I were the bicyclist that would certainly be my argument, joe. But I wonder how that works in the face of the other case I mentioned -- where the man died several years later but the man who shot him was convicted of murder. His assault left the man alive but he eventually died as a result of his wounds.

Well, my hypothetical depends upon the fact that there's a conscious decision to pull the plug on the victim. If it's a natural progression from assault to death, it's an entirely different affair. Under those circumstances, the biker wouldn't have anyone to blame but himself for the victim's death.

And in that other case are you sure it was several years between the shooting and the victim's death? In Anglo-American jurisprudence, the "deadline" is usually a year. If the death occurs more than a year after the crime, then the law generally presumes that the death was not the result of the crime.
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Tue 22 Sep, 2009 02:44 pm
@dyslexia,
dyslexia wrote:

we the jury find for joefromchicago.

Now if I could only find eleven more people like you.
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NickFun
 
  1  
Reply Tue 22 Sep, 2009 03:18 pm
He should be charged with Parking in a Handicapped Zone. I hate people that do that!

We should ask Debra Law!
0 Replies
 
Debra Law
 
  2  
Reply Tue 22 Sep, 2009 04:53 pm
@boomerang,
boomerang wrote:

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.

http://www.leg.state.or.us/ors/163.html


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.

http://www.leg.state.or.us/ors/163.html

The offender might also be charged with a crime under the heading ROBBERY:

http://www.leg.state.or.us/ors/164.html

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.
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2PacksAday
 
  1  
Reply Tue 22 Sep, 2009 05:04 pm
There is a film that uses a similar plot to this...."Fracture" with Anthony Hopkins...not so much the actual crime commited, but the life support angle does come into play.
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Intrepid
 
  1  
Reply Tue 22 Sep, 2009 07:40 pm
@Pamela Rosa,
....and this adds to the story how? Oh, yeah the racist part was left out. Rolling Eyes
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