Saturday, January 29, 2005


I think this qualifies as irony

So California prosecutors decided to charge the man who caused the train crash with 10 counts of murder with "special circumstances." Under California law special circumstances allegations could make him eligible for the death penalty. (AP press)

Not that I have too much sympathy for this guy about getting charged with a crime, although I think that perhaps the prosecutors may be caving into public pressure. Why do I think this? Murder requires malice... Look Ma, I learned something in Criminal Law!...
California Penal Code defines malice as;
"express malice is the deliberate intention unlawfully to take away the life of a fellow creature. It is implied, when no considerable provocation appears, or when the circumstances attending the killing show an abandoned and malignant heart. When it is shown that the killing resulted from the intentional doing of an act with express or implied malice as defined above, no other mental state need be shown to establish the mental state of malice aforethought. "

This guy wanted to kill himself, not random people on a train. Perhaps he should be charged with 10 counts of manslaughter(homicide without malice). Under murder, the prosecutor is probably going to have to argue that leaving the car on the tracks shows an "abandoned and malignant heart" (I love that phrase- it should replace "evil" in many cases)
One issue with this is that apparently the actual occurrence that killed the victims was the fact that after derailing, the train hit another commuter train. Trains hit cars all the time and no one dies, except the people in the cars.- sorry if that sounds flippant, it's not meant to be. It's just that the defendant may not have foreseen such a tragedy because it's not what normally happens. On the other hand, maybe he should be held accountable for the unforeseeable results of his actions, since he did cause a derailment, which caused a train wreck, which killed 11 people.

I guess my point is that the prosecutors are probably going to get this guy convicted of 10 counts of murder, because everyone in the country has heard about the crash; the defendant can forget getting a jury who hasn't been exposed to the media pictures and speculation. Once he's convicted, maybe the death penalty will be pursued. It's possible to do this while staying within the bounds of the law, but is it right? Me thinks no.

*future law students, consider this situation as a hypothetical for criminal law exams. As bizarre or sad it seems, you may see it on an exam in the future. It would make a great hypo.

**BTW- I got a job in Chicago! Whoohooo! No more job hunting for Kristine!

*** I'm finishing the edging on the baby pink and hot pink baby blanket... and then it'll make it's online debut- sorry knitters, but this project is crochet

Way to go on the job offer!!!
OK, here's what I think, and I might be talking out of my butt because I don't know very much about this story. I guess I'm that one juror who isn't prejudiced.

I want to kill myself (no, not really, just a hypothetical), so I shoot myself in the head in the privacy of my own home. Whoop-de-sh*t, right? But what if I walk into a crowd of people, shoot myself in the head, and take someone else with me? You don't think that's reckless? The moment that this guy left home to attempt suicide he put everyone else around him in harms way. Same thing goes for alcohol etc. You can get drunk alone and no problem. But get behind the wheel of a car...There's a reason that suicidal patients are under constant watch in the healthcare setting. Not only are they a threat to themselves but also to those around them.

On the flip side, you say he might be eligible for death penalty. Dude was trying to kill himself. Consider it a favor ;o)

Leah 'law or something' Rae
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