Self-defense question

Saw this in a comic book and realized I didn’t quite know the answer.

So our hero is fighting the villain, and renders him unconscious; and, for the sake of argument, assume he’s justified in so rendering said escaped killer unconscious: that he acted in self-defense, or in defense of others, or whatever; and that he used the minimum necessary amount of force to get the job done.

A moment later, it hits him: this ended down in a subway tunnel; and though he can move the limp body off the tracks, he instead thinks for a while about standing still until the next train comes along to squish the guy who’s out cold.

Now, I’m not asking for a Great Debate about what he should’ve done. And I’m not really trying to delve into the comic-book set-up à la Cafe Society; it could’ve simply been a hypothetical I’d contrived on of my own, instead of one from a story.

I’m just asking: what would the legal ramifications be of then doing nothing?

Leaving an unconscious body on the tracks so it gets run over by the train is flat-out murder, assuming the guy dies. Lesser crimes if more of him survives, of course.

And, woefully un-heroic, to address the “hero vs. villain” part.

Well, tweak the hypothetical a little: if the guy who knocked him out walked off, and somebody else who saw the whole thing decides to stand there and pointedly do nothing until the train eventually arrives – well, that bystander isn’t guilty of murder, right? Or anything else? Like, that bystander could later tell the police exactly what happened, and cheerfully explain that he totally could’ve moved the body off the tracks, and he’d be convicted of nothing?

That’s probably frowned upon, but I’ll wait for the actual lawyer-types to come along and weigh in.

Also not heroic, but understandable in context if the villain killed the bystander’s wife or something.

That tweak isn’t really cut-and-dry either, though. For instance, if the bystander was me, who is 5 foot 3 and certainly can’t do a chinup, it would be suicide to try to get down to the tracks as it’s a 4-foot drop and I wouldn’t be able to get back out without help. So unless the whole thing happened right next to an access ladder, I’m calling 911 and hoping the operator can contact the next train in time to stop.

Looking at the un-tweaked OP, that would at least be some sort of manslaughter, as the “hero” deliberately rendered someone unconscious and left them in a state of near certain death - even if it was because a train was coming and he barely got off the tracks himself.

From Business Law 104 ca 1974"
“Callous refusal to render assistance is not actionable”.
Assuming this means what I think it means:
I can watch you bleed to death while holding both a compress and a tourniquet. I have done nothing wrong. Not only is it not a crime, but nobody can even sue me (and succeed in said action.

And, for those who love irony: If I use the tourniquet in such a way as to not save your life but restrict so much circulation as to require the removal of your leg, I not only can, but probably will be sued and found liable.

“Callous refusal to render assistance is not actionable” – but if I’m the guy who laid him out on the tracks, then surely I bear some responsibility for what ensues.

The above comment is RE. the (un-involved) third party.

Do you, though?

You seem to be saying that the bystander, who did nothing before refusing to render assistance, is apparently guilty of no crime for refusing to render assistance – but that the other guy, who did nothing wrong before refusing to render assistance, is guilty of a crime. And that’s what I can’t readily find a cite for.

Again, grant for the sake of argument that this is a hypothetical where the knockout artist would’ve been guilty of no crime had he rendered the guy unconscious and then moved the body off the tracks. Or if it had happened somewhere other than on subway tracks. Or whatever; that he was, as a matter of law, justified in using enough force to render the other guy unconscious.

At that point, neither the puncher nor the bystander have committed a crime. From then on, both the puncher and the bystander refuse to render assistance. One isn’t guilty; where is it written that the other one is?

As for our Hero: you broke it, you bought it.

You know your action will result in the death of your victim (Vigilanteism is not universally loved). I suspect there is a number of criminal charges as well as Torts involved if the victim dies as a direct result of his/her action.

Any uninvolved people can hire a band and sing “Wimoweh” (“The Lion Sleeps Tonight)” to drown out the squishing sound as the train arrives.

Unless they know that doing so will materially impede rescue attempt(s).

Here’s another twist: Did the “hero” even know that the “villain” was still alive after the punch? Any attack that can knock out an opponent can also kill an opponent, and the difference may or may not be obvious. And I presume there’s no duty to move a corpse out of the way of a train, especially since doing so will expose the hero to more risk.

In the comic in question, yes, he did: for one thing, he felt to check the unconscious guy’s pulse before fully grasping the whole hey-wait-a-minute-we’re-on-train-tracks possibilities. (And for another, he’s Daredevil, so, yeah, he knows.)

If you put him there then you’re responsible for his safety. As to others that causes injury/death by omission I have no idea but I’ve seen many examples of people ignoring what goes on around them to no consequences.

Well, look, obviously I agree that if you put him there wrongfully, you’re responsible for his safety. Like, if you’re a mugger who commits a felony by rendering someone unconscious, and after illegally emptying the guy’s pockets you only then realize that, oh, yeah, cars drive down this street, don’t they? – then, sure, the crime you committed maybe morphs into a homicide charge if you leave his limp body.

But what I’m saying is, in a situation where you’re 100% within your rights to render someone unconscious, and you commit no crime by doing so – is that different? Does that lawful behavior later morph into a murder charge just as easily?

One situation is like the old Churchill joke: we’ve already established that you’re a criminal, we’re just dickering over how serious a crime you’ve committed. But in the other situation, we grant that you and the bystander were both law-abiding citizens who’d committed no crime when that guy’s body wound up on the tracks, right?

The important legal distinction is the bystander didn’t render the person unconscious and place them on the subway track. He just came upon that situation and observed it. Which, in common law systems, generally doesn’t make him legally liable for the death.

However, in civil law systems, there generally is a “duty to rescue” principle at work. You can be held legally liable for a death if you were able to prevent it (without risk to yourself) but chose not to. This is true even if you didn’t create the situation which led to the death.

He’s guilty of littering. And some states do have good samaritan laws. Last Seinfeld episode.

And, again, I get the idea that someone who commits a crime by rendering that person unconscious would be guilty of a greater crime if doing so produces death.

But what I’m saying is, the bystander did nothing wrong because he didn’t render the guy unconscious or place him on the tracks; and the puncher did nothing wrong in rendering the guy unconscious on those tracks. Yeah, in one way that puncher is different from the bystander – but in another way, that puncher also differs from somebody who committed a crime with a knockout blow. Does that matter?

I got that but this scenario is no different than the real life situation of self defense. You are responsible for his safety and to render aid in case he needs it. Your job is to stop the threat and not intentionally cause death either by action or omission.

All this will be decided by the jury.

So if lethal force is justified in a case of self defense how do you reconcile that with being responsible for the assailants safety?

Lethal force is justified no doubt about it but your intention is to stop the threat, not to kill.

This is what you say in front of the jury. Get it?