Legal hypothetical. Killing a brain dead person.

Suppose a person had been declared brain dead, but was on life support and otherwise continued to breath, had a heartbeat, etc… At the same time, an individual was carelessly firing his gun into the air. One of the bullets ends up striking the “dead” person “killing” them instantly. Is there a homicide involved?

What if someone committed a crime against a brain dead person, such as a sexual assault, is that a criminal act?

I’d think the more obvious offence would be firing the gun carelessly into the air.

I would think the bullet would have to hit the life support not the person in order to ‘kill’ them.
Many states have laws against sex with a corpse, and while the person in the OP might be in legal limbo as to whether they are dead or not, existing laws should be enough to cover sexual assault.

I just asked almost the same thing.

Brain dead is NOT dead is not medically dead for criminal homicide purposes or sexual assault. If anyone can find case or statutory law to the contrary, I would interesed to read it.

Because a jury might be sympathetic to the argument, “The victim was already dead,” the D.A. would likely try to prosecute on some lesser crime. D.A.'s don’t like really risky cases. “Causing grievous bodily harm” would be more likely to work, because, whether or not the person was alive, the body was still functioning, and was definitely harmed.

Straw arguments, but very similar to the ones Jeb & Friends dished out re : Terry Schiavo. Its odd when that crew would scream bloody murder if a crust of government bread found its way to the mouth of a starving man, yet be willing to dig up Schiavo’s corpse if they could stick it back on a machine.

Also, there are laws in many jurisdictions against defiling a corpse, variously worded. Has something to do with abstract respect for the departed or something, or maybe just legislators pandering to peoples’ emotionally-based RO. The usual.

Make no mistake, they’ll find plenty of possible crimes to charge Mr. Bullet with, throw a bunch of them out there, and see what sticks. Make enough laws, and something will stick.

How exactly would a bullet “carelessly fired” into the air manage to strike someone inside a hospital room?

That aside, it is definitely a homocide, ie the killing of a human being by another human being. It isn’t first degree murder due to the lack of intent, but might be prosecuted as “depraved heart murder” which requires proof of a callous disregard for human life; or possibly as manslaughter.

Why is it homicide? The person has already been declared brain-dead:

The bullet may put an end to the body’s metabolic processes (either through exsanguination or physical destruction of the heart or lungs), but how can it be any kind of homicide if the person is already legally dead?

A brain dead person is both medically and legally dead. You can’t kill a dead person.

This sounds like a plot for Law And Order. I’ll let Dick Wolf handle it.

I assumed the OP did not consider the person “dead-dead”, but just “brain dead.”

But “brain dead” IS “dead dead.” There is no difference. So the OP’s original question makes no sense, as it’s impossible to kill a person who is already dead. The relevant charge would have to be desecration of a corpse.

What if the bullet goes through the person’s lungs and heart (or major artery)? The machines aren’t going to work with a bunch of gaping holes in body.

What if the bullet goes through the life support equipment and essentially ‘pulls the plug’?

Either of these cases what take the person from ‘brain dead’ to what most people would consider ‘dead’ as in corpse. Like, it would be cold to the touch at that point.

Bullets typically have little problem passing through a glass window. In fact, they have been known to pass through walls.


No shit? Wow. I never would have imagined that.