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View Full Version : A question for those versed in the Black Arts....


CHIEF4EVER
07-31-2007, 03:43 PM
Everyone here is aware of the two News helicopters colliding during the high speed chase in Dallas and killing all on board both birds. This led me to ask about a point I heard brought up briefly in the news - Causation. I will post a poll and ask for elaboration by the attorneys/ex-attorneys on here as to whether or not the driver of the fleeing car is criminally or civilly liable for the deaths of those in the helicopters.

If I am not mistaken (and I could be as I have absolutely NO knowledge of the Black Arts) Causation is, by definition, the culpability of someone in damages, injury or death as a result of criminal or negligent activity. I believe (again, correct me if I am wrong) that to invoke Causation, it has to be reasonably assumed that the person accused knew that their actions could or would likely result in damage, injury or death.

So, Counselors, how would you answer the following (this ought to be VERY interesting):

1) Are there grounds, in your opinion, to invoke causation in this case?

2) If you were the Prosecutor, what angle of attack would you use?

3) If you were defending the accused, what would be your primary defense argument?

CHIEF4EVER
07-31-2007, 03:55 PM
Although not a Counselor, I will weigh in with my opinion.

1) Yes, I do. He had to know that fleeing at such a high rate of speed would likely cause damage and endanger others in a life threatening way.

2) I would argue that, as mentioned above, the defendant had to know beyond any doubt that he was endangering others' property and lives.

3) I would argue that, since the helicopters were News helicopters, it would not be reasonable to assume (on the defendants part) that they would be threatened by his actions and thus causation would be inapplicable. If they were Police helicopters that would be another story but News choppers are there voluntarily and the defendant couldn't possibly know they would pursue in the same manner as Police helicopters.

Brock
07-31-2007, 03:57 PM
No, and no, though the state will probably try.

jAZ
07-31-2007, 03:59 PM
Do you mean Phoenix? Or did this happen twice recently in Phx and Dallas?

listopencil
07-31-2007, 04:01 PM
No.

Baby Lee
07-31-2007, 04:07 PM
It flew [no pun intended] in MO.

http://www.ksdk.com/news/news_article.aspx?storyid=124701

Brock
07-31-2007, 04:21 PM
It flew [no pun intended] in MO.

http://www.ksdk.com/news/news_article.aspx?storyid=124701

I don't see how that relates to news choppers.

CHIEF4EVER
07-31-2007, 04:27 PM
I don't see how that relates to news choppers.
True, the person in question killed in that incident was a Police officer in the line of duty. I think BL was referring to causation having been evoked as a cause of death in the recent past though. A precedent.

Dave Lane
07-31-2007, 05:01 PM
None

CHIEF4EVER
07-31-2007, 05:16 PM
Do you mean Phoenix? Or did this happen twice recently in Phx and Dallas?

This happened yesterday in Dallas. The suspect was fleeing at more than 100 mph in some instances.

Baby Lee
07-31-2007, 06:20 PM
True, the person in question killed in that incident was a Police officer in the line of duty. I think BL was referring to causation having been evoked as a cause of death in the recent past though. A precedent.
Yes, an officer in the line of duty, responding to a manhunt 40 miles away.

alnorth
07-31-2007, 06:23 PM
Not a lawyer, but no freaking way. He forced police to chase and endanger themselves. No one forced the news helicopters to chase and collide.

This goes to another point that annoys me. Every time something bad happens SOMEONE or SOMETHING surely must be at fault. Well, no sometimes tragedies just happen, and absolutely no one is liable for it.

ClevelandBronco
07-31-2007, 06:26 PM
...1) Are there grounds, in your opinion, to invoke causation in this case?

2) If you were the Prosecutor, what angle of attack would you use?

3) If you were defending the accused, what would be your primary defense argument?

1. No freaking way.

2. I'd bring two manned helicopters complete with idiot "journalists" into the courtroom to reenact the accident.

3. Laughing out loud, making fart noises and shaking my fist in the air in a masturbatory gesture while rolling my eyes back in their sockets.

I got my law degree on craigslist.

CHIEF4EVER
07-31-2007, 06:32 PM
3. Laughing out loud, making fart noises and shaking my fist in the air in a masturbatory gesture while rolling my eyes back in their sockets.

LMAO

BucEyedPea
08-01-2007, 09:29 AM
No

News folks chased by choice because they wanted the glory of a story.

Precedent in MO: Wtf is wrong with that state?

banyon
08-01-2007, 10:16 AM
I guess since i get all my news coverage from the Daily Show, I missed this happening.

Here's my take on your post, which I think is an interesting question.

First off, you have this concept of "causation" all switched around.
Causation is an element of liability in criminal and civil cases, and not the other way around.

If there were any criminal liability theories for the prosecution regarding the deaths of the news chopper crews, it would probably be on what's called the "Felony Murder" Rule.

The Felony Murder rule basically says that if anyone is killed, even accidentally while you are committing an inherently dangerous felony, then you can be charged for the accidental deaths as well. Most jurisdictions treat Felony Murders as 1st Degree just like premeditated for sentencing.

In order for someone to be culpable for felony murder, though, there are limiting rules.

Causation in Criminal actions and civil negligence actions is divided into 2 kinds: "Proximate causation" and "Causation in fact".

Causation in fact means that but for the act of the defendant, the injury would not have occured. In this situation, the chase was the cause in fact of the crash.

Promixate causation is entirely a legal concept which is basically that the injury was a natural and foreseeable result of the defendant's actions. I don't think there is proximate causation here because of what would be called "intervening actions" on the parts of the injured parties. The news crews 1) assumed the risk knowing the danger they exposed themselves too and 2) one of the pilots or the air traffic controller was evidently negligent in his piloting of the chopper. If the pilot or controller hadn't been negligent, then the accident would not have occurred. This gets the fugitive off the hook, but he could also point out that being followed by news choppers was not foreseeable to also rebut proximate causation.

If one of the cops chasing him had died though, he'd definitely get charged with felony murder on that one.

jAZ
08-01-2007, 01:40 PM
This happened yesterday in Dallas. The suspect was fleeing at more than 100 mph in some instances.
I think you are confused.
Everyone here is aware of the two News helicopters colliding during the high speed chase in Dallas and killing all on board both birds.
http://kvoa.com/Global/story.asp?S=6859767&nav=HMO6

No serious injuries in crash landing of Dallas traffic chopper

Associated Press - July 30, 2007 2:34 PM ET

GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas (AP) - Two traffic reporters for Dallas stations and a pilot suffered minor injuries today after their helicopter lost power and crash landed near a lake.

The chopper flown by Curtis Crump was carrying Chip Waggoner and Julie DeHarty. All three were taken to Methodist Medical Center in Dallas.

Grand Prairie police say DeHarty suffered a cut to her forehead, while Waggoner has an apparent shoulder injury. Crump complained of soreness.

Waggoner reports for television station KDFW, while DeHarty is the traffic reporter for Dallas radio stations KRLD and KVIL.

Waggoner says the chopper lost power over Joe Pool Lake, southwest of Dallas, but Crump was able to get the aircraft to shore and crash land near the dam.

Waggoner says the helicopter skidded, then rolled.

The heavily damaged chopper came to rest on its side.

Friday, two television news helicopters collided and crashed in Phoenix, killing all four people aboard.

Amnorix
08-01-2007, 01:58 PM
The rule for caustion is whether or not the injuries resulting from your actions were REASONABLY foreseeable.

That decision is rendered by a jury, and unless truly ridiculous the jury's decision would not be overturned by a court.

This case, IMHO, is pushing it close to the limit. If I were a defense attorney, I'd find out if it had EVER happened before, and if not, say "how can someone be expected to foresee something that had never, ever, EVER happened before."

You can see how it gets tricky, however.

1. Bad guy steals car, drives fast to get away.

Hypothetical #1: cop chasing bad guy wrecks his copcar and dies. Clearly, it's foreseeable that the cop would go fast, and people would be endagered as a result.

Hypothetical #2: Cop chasing bad guy runs over Little Old Lady because he couldn't stop in time. Same result as #1, in my mind.

Hypothetical #3: Let's say this is ahppening in a County with few cops, and someone scanning police channels figures out EVERY cop is chasing this guy, so he goes and robs a liquor store becuase he knows there are no cops around. Now the chain of causation is pretty weak. You've also got the semi-rule that another individuals criminal acts breaks the chain of caustion. In other words, you can't foresee (usually) that someone else will commit a crime as a result of your acts.

Hypothetical #4: News truck chasing the police chase wrecks and everyone dies. Well, it's foreseeable that this might be newsworthy, but could you foresee that the news truck would be driving 90 mph to keep up? That might be an intervening criminal act (driving above limit).

Etc. ad infinitum

And yes, I would've been a law professor in another life. :D

Amnorix
08-01-2007, 02:00 PM
I guess since i get all my news coverage from the Daily Show, I missed this happening.

Here's my take on your post, which I think is an interesting question.

First off, you have this concept of "causation" all switched around.
Causation is an element of liability in criminal and civil cases, and not the other way around.

If there were any criminal liability theories for the prosecution regarding the deaths of the news chopper crews, it would probably be on what's called the "Felony Murder" Rule.

The Felony Murder rule basically says that if anyone is killed, even accidentally while you are committing an inherently dangerous felony, then you can be charged for the accidental deaths as well. Most jurisdictions treat Felony Murders as 1st Degree just like premeditated for sentencing.

In order for someone to be culpable for felony murder, though, there are limiting rules.

Causation in Criminal actions and civil negligence actions is divided into 2 kinds: "Proximate causation" and "Causation in fact".

Causation in fact means that but for the act of the defendant, the injury would not have occured. In this situation, the chase was the cause in fact of the crash.

Promixate causation is entirely a legal concept which is basically that the injury was a natural and foreseeable result of the defendant's actions. I don't think there is proximate causation here because of what would be called "intervening actions" on the parts of the injured parties. The news crews 1) assumed the risk knowing the danger they exposed themselves too and 2) one of the pilots or the air traffic controller was evidently negligent in his piloting of the chopper. If the pilot or controller hadn't been negligent, then the accident would not have occurred. This gets the fugitive off the hook, but he could also point out that being followed by news choppers was not foreseeable to also rebut proximate causation.

If one of the cops chasing him had died though, he'd definitely get charged with felony murder on that one.

Nicely summarized.

Cochise
08-01-2007, 02:11 PM
I understand the "This guy sucks, let's hit him with everything we can think of" sentiment... but I don't think the laws are meant to be applied in this way.

jAZ
08-01-2007, 02:16 PM
I understand the "This guy sucks, let's hit him with everything we can think of" sentiment... but I don't think the laws are meant to be applied in this way.
It's exactly what the felony murder rule is for.

Amnorix
08-01-2007, 03:20 PM
It's exactly what the felony murder rule is for.

Right, and it's very extensively applied.

Example 1: Cop and bad guy #1 are in a shoot out. Cop accident shoots little old lady hostage -- felony murder rule. Bad Guy #1 is on the hook for murder 1.

Example 2: Getaway Driver (Bad Guy #2) is waiting in car. He doesn't have a weapon. In fact, he's a confused Jehovah's Witness, but doesn't believe in weapons at all. Bad Guy #1 commits armed robbery and ends up shooting the cashier, who called him a "really bad man". Bad Guy #2 is on the hook for Murder 1.

Example 3: Combine the 2 scenarios. Bad Guy #2 is in getaway car. Bad Guy #1 is in shootout with cop. Cop shoots little old lady. Bad Guy #2 is on the hook for Murder 1.

The point here is that if someone dies as a direct result of a felony that you are committing/aiding/abetting, then YOU are on the hook for it.

The above are NOT arguable hypotheticals. They are 100% sure-fire Bad Guy is totally f**ked situations.