02 August 2006

It's a Law School Question

You see a friend getting in a fight with a bunch of guys. You shoot at the people fighting with your friend. The bullet hits your friend in the back of the head, killing him.

What's the charge?

5 comments:

Chris S said...

Heh, that totally is a crim law hypo waiting to happen!... Lets see, there is the question of whether there was malice aforethought (turning on the laser sight), transferred intent, reckless disregard, defense of others (standing in shoes of person in fight vs. reasonable observer) etc. The way you describe it, it sure sounds like involuntary manslaughter/voluntary manslaughter(causal killing of another contrary to the intention of the parties/reckless disregard), but I can see the elements the prosecution will use to build the 1st degree charge... I wonder if premeditation required in WA?

123txpublicdefender123 said...
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123txpublicdefender123 said...

As a newly minted Washington public defender, I can say that 1st degree murder can be made out if "under circumstances manifesting an extreme indifference to human life, he or she engages in conduct which creates a grave risk of death to any person, and thereby causes the death of a person." However, homicide is justifiable if committed "in the lawful defense of the slayer . . . or any other person in his presence or company, when there is reasonable ground to apprehend a design on the part of the person slain to commit a felony or to do some great personal injury to the slayer or to any such person, and there is imminent danger of such design being accomplished." So, I'd say the guy has a good justification defense, too. Of course, the justification defense itself will require transferred intent since there was no such malicious design by the "person slain." Very complicated. If you take it to a jury, I can see them splitting the baby, and settling on some sort of manslaughter.

Anonymous said...

as a soon to be 2L with a substandard criminal law grade, I would guess that the firing a weapon into a group of people shows great depravity, and a charge of 2nd degree murder could be filed.

Mike said...

While I'm not familiar with Washington law, I would guess that it is similar enough to the Model code for Walker to not have a justification defense.

In order for the use of lethal force to be justified, there must be a reasonable apprehension that the actor or another was in danger of death.

There's no suggestion of that here. They were just fighting. No guns or knives. No one was being stranggled or slashed.

Risk of bodily injury yes, but not of death. Walker would have only been justified in using non-lethal force in defense of his friends. His use of force was disproportionate and therefore unjustified.