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Is the Slaying of a Person Accidentally Considered Murder?

Posted Aug 6, '14 at 2:51pm

apldeap123

apldeap123

1,418 posts

Before you judge me and say that there's no such thing as an 'Accidental Slaying,' read the following, then state your opinion.
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You are chopping firewood for one of your friends. The ax that you are using is brand-new, and is very sharp. Your friend comes up behind you, wanting to ask you a question. Not hearing him or seeing him coming, you swing the ax over your head. The ax hits your friend in the head, killing him. As you turn around to see what that thud was, you gasp in horror as you see your friend's body, lying on the ground.

 

Posted Aug 6, '14 at 3:06pm

HahiHa

HahiHa

5,522 posts

Knight

The situation described is an accident. Your friend acted carelessly (which is a nicer word for stupidly) by walking up to you from a direction where you couldn't see him. Since the axe is brand new there was no danger of the head flying away when you swing the axe.

Then it depends on your justice system. If you start off with presumption of innocence and no evidence for murder can be found, you're fine. If you have to prove it wasn't murder, good luck.

Irrelevant, technical question: what role does the sharpness of the blade of the axe play when you hit your friend with the back end of it, as I assume from the situation?


last edited Aug 06 2014 03:07 pm by HahiHa
 

Posted Aug 6, '14 at 3:35pm

apldeap123

apldeap123

1,418 posts

what role does the sharpness of the blade of the axe play when you hit your friend with the back end of it,


If it were a dull axe, he would have a better chance of surviving, since it wouldn't go through his head as much.
 

Posted Aug 6, '14 at 3:59pm

MattEmAngel

MattEmAngel

7,517 posts

You don't need our opinions. It's called "Involuntary Manslaughter." Google that term and you'll get all the answers you need. As a quick reference, FindLaw states that "The base sentence for involuntary manslaughter under federal sentencing guidelines is a 10 to 16 month prison sentence, which increases if it was committed through an act of reckless conduct." To answer your question, it is not murder, which is technically "Voluntary Manslaughter," where the act was committed with intent to kill or cause serious harm.

 

Posted Aug 6, '14 at 5:05pm

HahiHa

HahiHa

5,522 posts

Knight

If it were a dull axe, he would have a better chance of surviving, since it wouldn't go through his head as much.

Irrelevant opinion again: I assumed he was using a regular one-bladed splitting axe, so he would logically have hit his friend with the blunt poll. If he was using a double-bladed axe, that would have been what Matt would call an act of reckless conduct.
 

Posted Aug 6, '14 at 6:28pm

Moegreche

Moegreche

3,319 posts

Moderator

@MattEmAngel - Those are some really thorough points and pretty much shuts down the question. I would imagine that in most countries (at least, developed ones) the circumstances described wouldn't constitute murder in a legal sense.

But there's also an ethical notion of murder - the wrongful killing of a person. Of course, even in this sense the circumstances described don't seem to match this notion of murder. So let's make it interesting.

What's lacking from the case above to make it murder in the ethical sense? Intentionality seems an obvious answer, but it also seems like a moral agent could commit murder even if she lacked the intention to harm another person. So is there something else we can find that would push a killing into the realm of murder?

 

Posted Aug 7, '14 at 4:36am

pangtongshu

pangtongshu

10,003 posts

A better question: Why would someone walk up to someone swinging an axe, especially if they are swinging it so recklessly?

Like, really, who swings their axe back over their head :|

 

Posted Aug 7, '14 at 1:51pm

thepyro222

thepyro222

2,237 posts

he ax that you are using is brand-new, and is very sharp. Your friend comes up behind you, wanting to ask you a question. Not hearing him or seeing him coming, you swing the ax over your head. The ax hits your friend in the head, killing him

Well... unless you're using a 2- headed battle axe to chop wood you'd be hitting him with the dull end, which probably wouldn't kill him, so your argument is invalid right there.
But I'll placate you. If you do accidentally kill someone, it's called involuntary manslaughter, and it would be up to the court and the jury to decide your fate. If you struck someone with the pointy end of an axe while he was behind you, you probably deserve to go to jail anyway.
 

Posted Aug 7, '14 at 2:29pm

apldeap123

apldeap123

1,418 posts

If he was using a double-bladed axe, that would have been what Matt would call an act of reckless conduct.

It was more reckless for my friend to walk behind me to ask me a question, since he knew that I was chopping wood!

If you struck someone with the pointy end of an axe while he was behind you, you probably deserve to go to jail anyway.

But I didn't mean to harm him. It was by accident. I quote Numbers 35:22-25, KJV:

"(23)But if he thrust him suddenly without enmity, or have cast upon him any thing without laying of wait, or with any stone, wherewith a man may die, seeing him not, and cast it upon him, that he die, and was not his enemy, neither sought his harm: (24)Then the congregation shall judge between the slayer and the revenger of blood according to these judgments25)And the congregation shall deliver the slayer out of the hand of the revenger of blood, and the congregation shall restore him to the city of his refuge, whither he was fled: and he shall abide in it unto the death of the high priest, which was anointed with the holy oil."

Verse 25 says that if I had no intention of killing my friend, I would not be charged with murder. So it would be neither one's fault. It was purely accidental.


last edited Aug 07 2014 02:31 pm by apldeap123
 

Posted Aug 7, '14 at 2:42pm

HahiHa

HahiHa

5,522 posts

Knight

It was more reckless for my friend to walk behind me to ask me a question, since he knew that I was chopping wood!

I see no particular reason to chop wood with a double-bladed axe, so you underwent an unnecessary and avoidable risk (you might have even hurt yourself). And yes, your friend acted particularly recklessly by just walking up to you from behind. But even though I agree with you, there is no point in debating about "who was more reckless". I think the court will not discriminate, and rightly so; if your act was termed "less reckless", it would give you a false sense of remission.
 
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