Not sure if this is better for Cafe Society, but I’m curious in the actual legality of this situation.
SPOILERS FOR A 13 YEAR OLD SOUTH PARK EPISODE BELOW
So, for those who haven’t seen it, in this episode of South Park, Cartman concocts an elaborate ruse to get revenge on a bully. I’ll let him explain it:
So in summary, Cartman created a situation in which someone would want to trepass on land knowing full well that the landowner would shoot trepassers. He didn’t tell anyone to go there, and he didn’t tell anyone to shoot anyone. The worst he did was tell that owner that there we’re people who meant to do him harm in the area, which was a lie.
There’s some corpse desecration and cannibalism that follows after that, but I’m not really interested in that.
So the question, if Cartman broke a law, what could he be charged with? He didn’t kill anyone directly or tell anyone to kill anyone. Assume Colorado state law.
Sounds not at all unlike a Law & Order episode where a girl convinced a guy to wear biker gang colors to the club’s bar, and the gang members kill him (with an oil can spigot*, if I recall correctly). They do charge the girl with murder, but I have always wondered if they could really make it stick.
( * Can anyone name another TV show character to be killed with the same implement?)
Since he planned it all out and admitted the way he wanted the plan to work, I would think it would be murder or at the very least accomplice to murder.
For a real life example to explain the accomplice to murder reasoning:
A couple of guys rob a jewelry store, during the robbery the security guard kills one of them with his sidearm. After all is said and done the getaway driver, the guy that was just outside sitting in his car the whole time gets charged with murder, just for being involved in the whole thing.
One could argue that he did nothing wrong at all. All he did was drive his friends to the strip mall (or wherever it was). A good lawyer might even argue that his friends held him at gunpoint and forced him to do it. But whatever you say, he certainly had no part in his friend’s death…did he?
FTR, I’m not looking to hijack the thread, I was just trying to suggest that maybe Cartman is an accomplice in the murder of the parents. It might be easier to make that stick. I don’t know all the laws regarding that, but since he had sort of a hands off approach, but just put the wheels in motion, maybe this is the way to go.
What about going for the bullying approach. Could a jury be convinced that Cartman bullied the family into a trap set up to kill them? Don’t a lot of states have anti-bully laws now (even if they didn’t 13 years ago)?
If someone dies as a result of an action that a reasonable person would know is likely to result in death, the person responsible is guilty of manslaughter or similar crime, depending on the jurisdiction.
Since Cartman admitted that he knew that his actions would result in death, he’s guilty of man slaughter.
In substance, this is no different to handing someone a glass that you know contains poison or telling someone that a live electrical wire is safe. Both of those cases have been successfully tried as manslaughter in the past. Cartman’s scheme was much more elaborate, but the substance is the same. He didn’t force anybody to do anything, he didn’t tell anybody to do anything, but he deliberately led someone to do something that he knew would result in their death.
Without a confession, it would be impossible to prove. But given the public confession in front of hundreds of witnesses I imagine the trial would be a formality
Premeditated murder. You don’t get to argue that you didn’t murder somebody and that the trap you set for them with the intent of killing them actually killed them. If you intended for them to die and set up circumstances that reasonably and foreseeably caused their death, you’re guilty of premeditated murder. At common law, manslaughter doesn’t fit - manslaughter is either a voluntary act reasonably mitigated by provocation or an involuntary act that nonetheless rises to the level of criminal culpability, such as criminal negligence. Cartman intended to kill Tenorman’s parents, planned it with malice aforethought, and set about a chain of events that were the actual, proximate, and foreseeable causes of their deaths. You can’t set a trap intending somebody to kill somebody and then argue that the trap killed them and not you any more than you can argue that the bullet you shot killed them and not you.
IANAL, but I don;t think it’s that clear cut. Even if someone’s intent is clear and the outcome is foreseeable, at some point the chain of causality becomes so long and the actions of the victim so much a part of responsibility that murder no longer applies. Hence why you couldn’t charge the CEO of COLT for every suicide committed with a COLT firearm.
Cartman didn’t set a trap in the usual sense. A trap is a mechanical device with a predictable outcome that is intended to harm someone going about normal or predictable business.
What Cartman did is much less concrete than that. He didn’t “set” anything as such. He correctly predicted what he thought the victims would do, but the scheme is so elaborate and based so much on free choices of the victim that I don’t think it rises to the level of a trap. Even with an admission, it would be hard to establish that any human being could know that the scheme would lead to death. Sure, it’s one possible outcome, but nobody in the real world would say that it was even *likely *given the elaborate gambit with the double-bluffs, second guessing and in-depth psychological knowledge involved.
I think the sticking point in trying for murder here is that the jury is supposed to be composed of reasonable people. No matter what Cartman says, no reasonable person would conclude that he could have known events would fall out that way. He should have known that was *one *of the foreseeable outcomes, hence manslaughter. But there is no way that any sane person would conclude that was the likely outcome.
It seems to me that if this is a trap, then any high school guidance counselor who suggests a military career is guilty of setting a trap and could be tried. They can hardly argue that they didn’t foresee that their advice had a good chance of leading to death. The same goes for anyone who sells cigarettes. In fact, those acts would be demonstrably more likely to result in death than Cartman’s Batman Gambit.
Even if a guidance counselor admitted that he wanted the student he sent into the army to get shot, I do not believe he could be convicted of murder. Ditto for a tobacconist admitting that they wanted a customer to get cancer. Those scenarios are identical to the Cartman plot, but much less likely in the real world. But I do not believe a murder conviction would be possible. At some stage, the victim knowingly engaging in a risky activity (horse theft) waters down responsibility. And at some point, the actions undertaken of free will and not even suggested, much less demanded, by the plotter become so integral to the outcome that I don’t think a murder conviction would be possible even with a megalomaniac’s claim that it was all planned perfectly.
It doesn’t matter how much the plotter wanted the person dead. At some point the death becomes such an indirect consequence of the plotters actions and the victim bears so much responsibilty for actions that the plotter never even *suggested *they undertake that the plotter simply can;t be said to have premeditated it, no matter how much the *think *they did.
First of all, are we assuming Colorado law or just general legal principles?
In Arizona, a suspect in a high-speed chase was convicted of manslaughter when a news helicopter crashed. The legal reasoning (which I disagree with as the link being too tenuous) was that leading police on a high-speed chase will reasonably lead to newscopter coverage (OK that I agree with) and that ANYTHING that results from that is the legal responsibility of the suspect. Note that even if it is not reasonable for the copter to crash, it is still on the suspect I guess because of the eggshell legal doctrine.