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October 9, 2018

Simpsons hypo (aka RIP Rod and Todd Flanders) for considering unintended homicides

HqdefaultI mentioned in class the the Simpson's hypo for consideration before our next class(es) discussing unintended homicide charges.  Here it is, with helpful links to the Simpson's wiki:

Mr. Burns, that rich old codger, is having a problem with birds on his country estate.  Bart Simpson built a tree house on the property when he was ward of Mr. Burns, and Bart recently left open a huge vat or Marge’s home-made peanut butter.  (Bart had to take it to the tree house to keep Homer from eating all of it himself.)  Smelling the peanut butter, birds from all over Springfield have invaded Burns’ property.

Burns tells his willing servant Waylon Smithers to get one of his antique flare guns and start firing shots into the tree around the tree house to scare birds away.  Burns warns Smithers to check whether anyone is in the area; Burns knows kids still like to use the tree house, even though he had put up a sign stating that kids playing in the tree house would be prosecuted for trespassing.

Eager to do Burns' bidding and shoo the birds away quickly, Smithers only calls out "Hello, can anyone hear me?" to see if anyone is in the tree house.  Smithers does not personally check to make sure no kids are in the house.  After calling out a few times, he gets no response (though the woods are noisy).  Smithers decides that he has done enough given than he does not plan to shoot at the tree house.  He then takes aim at branches nearby the tree house and starts firing.

Sadly, it turns out that Rod Flanders and Todd Flanders, devout children of The Simpson’s devout neighbor, were in the tree house praying because they thought being off the ground brought them closer to their lord.  (The Flanders thought praying, rather than playing, in the tree house was fine, and they heard Smithers call out, but though it was their lord speaking to them.)  Tragically, the antique flare-gun fired off line and  into the treehouse. 

The flare shot by Smithers struck Rod directly in the chest.  Todd discovers his older brother Rod has been killed instantly, and distraught, he jumps out the treehouse window to his death.

Smithers turns himself in, and now you are the prosecutor trying to decide whether he might be guilty of a form of homicide in Washington (at the time of Williams); in Massachusetts (at the time of Welansky), in Oliwood under the MPC; and in Ohio now.

October 9, 2018 in Course materials and schedule | Permalink


In considering the unintended homicide charge for Smithers in Ohio, the "deadly weapon or dangerous ordnance" language in O.R.C. 2903.041 jumped out at me. It seemingly suggests that negligently causing the death of another without using a "deadly weapon or dangerous ordnance" would not qualify as negligent homicide. The flare gun Smithers uses would likely count as dangerous ordnance, as O.R.C. 2923.11(K)(2) says dangerous ordnance includes "any explosive device or incendiary device". Thus, in this hypothetical each of the elements for negligent homicide is likely satisfied. However, what if Smithers had used, say, a bullhorn to scare the birds away, and it startled the Flanders children so badly they fell out of the treehouse and died? (I know, a ridiculous premise, but bear with me here.) To me, a plain reading of the text would suggest Smithers could not be charged with negligent homicide, nor any other level of homicide.

Posted by: Cole Hassay | Oct 9, 2018 10:34:54 PM

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