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October 18, 2021

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

Waylon_SmithersI mentioned in class a Simpson's hypo for your consideration if you want a fact pattern to use to explore the various ways that various jurisdictions approach 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 of 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 all the birds away.  Burns urges Smithers to be sure to check whether anyone is in the area; Burns knows kids still like to use the tree house, even though Burns had his staff put up a sign stating that kids playing in the tree house would be prosecuted for trespassing.

Eager to do Burns' bidding and to shoo the birds away quickly, Smithers only calls out -- "Hello, can anyone hear me?" -- in any effort to determine if anyone is in the tree house.  Smithers does not directly check to make sure no kids are in the tree house beyond repeatedly calling out.  After calling out a few times, he gets no response (though the woods are noisy).  Smithers decides that he has done enough given that he does not plan to shoot directly 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 Simpsons' devout neighbor, were in the tree house praying because they thought being high off the ground brought them closer to their lord.  (The Flanders sincerely thought that praying, rather than playing, in the tree house was perfectly fine.  The kids had heard Smithers call out each time, but they thought it was the lord speaking to them.)  Tragically, the third shot from the antique flare-gun fired off line and into the tree house. 

The third flare shot by Smithers which entered the tree house struck Rod Flanders directly in the chest.  Todd Flanders discovered that his older brother Rod has been killed instantly by the flare; distraught, he jumps out the tree house window to his death.

Smithers turns himself in, and now you are the prosecutor trying to decide whether he might be guilty of some 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 18, 2021 in Course materials and schedule, Preparing for the final | Permalink


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