View Full Version : Should He Be Charged With Culpable Homicide?

6th Feb 2009, 20:43
This is a true event:

Two television news choppers were following a stolen vehicle being chased by police when the helicopters somehow collided with one another and both crashed into a park. Four people (two in each helicopter) were killed. Fortunately, the park was vacant at the time, but a couple of hours earlier it was the site of a group picnic. If the crash happened then, many more would have been killed or injured.

The man in the stolen vehicle was apprehended, and police are considering laying a charge of culpable homicide against him because of the crash of the helicopters.

It is an interesting legal question which I have been wrestling with. I think the key words are "culpability" and "intent."

What do you think?

6th Feb 2009, 20:45
This is a true event:
Have you got the link to the reports?



6th Feb 2009, 21:04
Have you got the link to the reports?

No. I'm on my way to the law library to do some research on "intent" and thought I'd post this with the hope of emboldening some good comment.

I doubt if you would be interested in the voluminous case law I'm currently wading through.

6th Feb 2009, 21:05
Normally anything marked "This is a true story" is rubbish, however in this case the crash at least is a true event.

BBC NEWS | World | Americas | Deaths in US TV helicopter crash (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/6920156.stm)

Who knows what the police are "considering" ?

6th Feb 2009, 21:46
Whilst a tradgedy, this really was an accident waiting to happen. Just look at any aerial footage of a [US] police chase, and there are more choppers buzzing around than flies 'round a jam pot.
Condolencies to all.

6th Feb 2009, 21:52
28 July 2007

6th Feb 2009, 21:59
You could always try asking your questions here




6th Feb 2009, 22:32
I think the key words are "culpability" and "intent."

I think the key words are "pilot in command".

6th Feb 2009, 22:43
Yep, as much as I despise criminals, I can't see why the driver is in any way responsible for a helicopter crash.

6th Feb 2009, 23:00
As an analogy, if a celebrity is driving along with papparazzi in pursuit, who then run into a pylon because they're not looking where they're going, who's fault is that?

Light Westerly
6th Feb 2009, 23:31
As they were both civilian news helicopters, and not involved in the prosecution of the chase, I do not feel the driver should be held accountable for the collision.

If there had been even just one police helicopter involved in prosecution of the chase and subsequent mishap, I believe it would be a different matter?

unstable load
7th Feb 2009, 02:21
Light Westerly,

I lay absolutely no claim to any legal understanding or knowledge, but how would you make the case that a crim evading arrest was in any way responsible for a pilot flying into a pole, wires, bridge, the ground?

Surely the pilot is responsible for the consequences of his actions and trying to pass the blame to a guy in a car is wishful thinking at best?

Light Westerly
7th Feb 2009, 03:11
I'm not familiar with how it works legally either, but I've heard of cases where the "runner" has been given added charges when a police officer involved in pursuit has been injured/killed. Thinking if it applies to officers in police ground vehicles- perhaps police helicopters as well?

7th Feb 2009, 03:52
Not a lawyer but,

The law in the USA is that if you commit a crime, for instance a bank robbery, and someone is killed in the process and as a consequence of your crime, then you are liable for a charge of murder. You do not need intent to kill, only to commit the robbery, (It would therefore be second degree murder.)

This is extended to, say, someone killed in the crossfire, even by a police bullet. Someone dies therefore someone must be responsible and since the police did not initiate the chain of events it can not be them, so it must be the robbers. (And quite right too.)

Whether the prosecution can make the link to these deaths being a direct consequence of the robbery is another matter.

7th Feb 2009, 04:51
Thanks for your replies.

I know this story was "old news" but I posted it because I thought it would be an interesting legal question which wasn't the principle thrust of the original thread.

Loose rivets
7th Feb 2009, 06:11
Fairly typical 'legal' madness. With this logic we could all end up facing serious charges by, for instance, parking - where it obstructed the view of some unfortunate pedestrian.

My guess is that these pilots were 'running on adrenaline'. Silly term, but you know what I mean. Probably got a bit over stimulated. I know I would have been. Fun flying, until something like this happens.

When that bloke was convicted of causing a train derailment - with tragic consequences - I was appalled. The police went to extraordinary lengths to prove that he must have been tired. (Yes and going fast, but tired was the big issue.) Absolutely, no blame was leveled at BR (or whoever) for allowing the rail to be vulnerable to a vehicle leaving the highway...AND CRASHING A TRAIN. For ****'s sake, this could have been caused by a nail in a tire, the fact that a tired motorist left the road at that point is grievously unfortunate...but it could have been you or me...and Armco or even A FEW TREES WOULD HAVE, AND SHOULD HAVE, PROTECTED THE LINE.