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Intervening Causes

Discussion in 'Criminal Procedure, Criminal Court' started by jody, May 15, 2001.

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  1. jody

    jody Law Topic Starter New Member

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    What is this? I saw Law & Order last night and a guy who shot a woman might have gotten off from a murder charge because of an intervening cause. A doctor had committed malpractice or something like that when he wanted to get a kidney to a hospital that offered him a job so he gave a woman who was pronounced braindead a painkiller to remove her organs. While she was alive she was basically brain dead and legally dead. The guy who shot the woman was getting off because of this act by the doctor. What does it mean?
     
  2. Michael Wechsler

    Michael Wechsler Administrator Staff Member

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    Responsibility for the ultimate outcome of an act is determined by several factors. In this case, a man shot a woman -- did she die? No, she was taken to the hospital. He would not be guilty of murder until she died, although he could be convicted of attempted murder. In the hospital, if the doctor committed some malpractice, and the woman died, the defendant could still be convicted of murder since he put the woman into the position where it would be reasonable to see her death. By putting her life in jeopardy and sending her to the hospital, it is foreseeable that a doctor could commit malpractice and she would die.

    Now, take a look at the example above. The doctor intentionally committed an act that probably carried himself outside of malpractice and could be convicted of murder. The woman was alive (she was on painkillers so she could feel pain) and the doctor killed her for her organs. This act may not be foreseeable so the limit of what we may be able to charge the defendant is attempted murder, not murder because the doctor's act took on its own importance and stopped the flow of liability of the defendant. It is an act outside the zone of the defendant's act since it wasn't foreseeable.

    Was I correct? :)
     

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