ForumsWEPRIs the Slaying of a Person Accidentally Considered Murder?

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apldeap123
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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.

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HahiHa
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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?

apldeap123
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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.
MattEmAngel
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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.

HahiHa
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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.
Moegreche
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@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?

pangtongshu
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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 :|

thepyro222
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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.
apldeap123
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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.

HahiHa
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HahiHa
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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.
apldeap123
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If you struck someone with the pointy end of an axe while he was behind you, you probably deserve to go to jail anyway.


If I was facing my friend, and I swung the ax at his head, killing him, that would be second-degree murder. I willfully and knowingly killed him. However, I was chopping wood. I did not see my friend coming up from behind me.
EmperorPalpatine
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I quote Numbers 35:22-25, KJV:

Leviticus 19:16, NIV
"...Do not do anything that endangers your neighborâs life. I am the Lord."

How are bronze-age laws relevant?
MattEmAngel
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If I was facing my friend, and I swung the ax at his head, killing him, that would be second-degree murder. I willfully and knowingly killed him. However, I was chopping wood. I did not see my friend coming up from behind me.

This is not complicated.

1. You cannot split wood with a double-bladed ax. You need a splitting maul (or a regular ax) to split wood, which has a blade on one side and a sledgehammer head on the other. An ax has a blade on one side and a flat surface on the other, making it lighter and slightly easier to manage. A double-bladed ax is for medieval combat. If you know anything about working with trees (and I do), you know that you cannot use a two-headed ax for any part of the job. Period.

1.5. When you split wood, you do not force the maul backwards. You pull it out of the log, raise it vertically in front of you, rest it on your shoulder (with the head a few inches past your shoulder), then heave it up, over your center of balance and down into the log. You seem to be under some sort of bizarre impression that one splits wood by jerking the blade out of the log and over their head in a huge arc. If you're splitting wood like that, you're doing it wrong and you're going to hurt yourself before you hurt someone else.

In other words, you need to choose a better example. I have over a decade of experience cutting down trees and splitting wood. I do in fact know what I'm talking about. Having said that,

2. If you did not intentionally attack your friend, it is involuntary manslaughter, assuming you can prove you did not intentionally attack him. This should be relatively easy to do if you do not move his body, because it will show that he was behind you. Combined with a lack of motive and witnesses, you will most likely be proven guilty of involuntary manslaughter.

3. Involuntary manslaughter, as I already posted, is not murder (voluntary manslaughter), ergo you cannot be charged with murder. The penalties vary depending on the state, but you will most likely earn several months of jail time.

4. No court in the US will accept Bible doctrine as evidence. This is a purely legal question, and I have given you a legal answer. Either way, it is not your fault if your friend approaches you from behind while you are working and is injured or killed. He would have deliberately stood right behind you while you were visibly splitting wood with a maul. Your friend was an idiot.

Moegreche
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This is a purely legal question, and I have given you a legal answer.


You have definitely destroyed the legal approach to this question. But as I mentioned in my previous post, there is the moral question of murder. As I explained there, the circumstances here in no way meet the criteria for the wrongful killing of another person. But if this conversation is to continue, I would encourage those interested to read my previous post and consider the questions posed therein.
apldeap123
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No court in the US will accept Bible doctrine as evidence.


I was just trying to prove the Bible's view of a wrongful killing, not using it as evidence of any sort.
apldeap123
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How are bronze-age laws relevant?

In the 1943 Supreme Court Case, West Virginia State Board of Ed v. Barnette overturned the ruling of the court case in 1940, Minersville School District v. Gobitis. The ruling of the 1943 case, which made unconstitutional forcing children to salute the flag, was based on the First Amendment's Freedom of Religion and the Gobitis' belief in the Bible, specifically Exodus 20:3. To them, saluting the flag was equal to worshiping an idol. Their belief and the First Amendment's guarantee of freedom of religion led to the aforementioned landmark Supreme Court decision, which gave students the freedom of choice whether or not to salute the flag.

Before you dismiss my post as an attempt to defend the Bible, it is not. It is merely stating an example of how the Bible, or as one might put it, 'bronze-age laws,' is still relevant.

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