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ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

Is she guilty? (details inside.)

Asked by ANef_is_Enuf (25199points) September 15th, 2010

A book that I am reading brought up an interesting question… here is the scenario:

A woman wanting to poison her husband puts arsenic in his apple, but he throws it away. A homeless person fishes it out of the trash, eats it, and ultimately dies. Has the woman murdered him?
What if a man goes to the house of a depressed woman carrying a rope and a box. He ties one end of the rope to the rafter, the other end into a noose and places the box below. Suppose he convinces her to put her head in the noose and kick the box out from under herself. Has he murdered her?

I found both of these very difficult to answer for myself… curious to hear from my jellies.

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16 Answers

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

First, I have to say it sounds like a dreadful book.

Now, to answer the question: in both scenarios, they’re guilty. The woman poisoned the apple, and it killed someone. In the second instance, the man convinced the someone to kill herself.

Ugh. It feels gross even having to answer this. So, why am I? I’m not sure…Hmm.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@hawaii_jake sorry! The book actually has nothing to do with scenarios like this, it is about language and human nature. These examples were brought up to illustrate conundrums of causality that happen in life, the chapter itself is about causality and how it affects our use of verbs.

Seek's avatar

The apple:

Attempted murder of her husband. She could probably get off as manslaughter for the homeless guy.

As for the rope, he could probably be charged with coercion. I don’t know if it would go further than that.

Seaminglysew's avatar

Guilty in both cases. If you are planning to kill some one you are guilty.

Brian1946's avatar

I think in the first one she would be guilty of criminally negligent homicide.
In the second one I think he’d be guilty of voluntary manslaughter.

I got my law degree from the Dick Wolf School of Lawn Order. :-p

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

In the first case, I agree with @Seek_Kolinahr. It is attempted murder and manslaughter. In the second scenario he would probably have multiple charges brought against him, including murder (which may be bargained to manslaughter, depending on the degree of premeditation).

Pistol's avatar

I think the first one could be questionable. Sure she is a terrible person and she tried to kill her husband. But she wasn’t trying to kill the bum. That’s a danger to being a bum. You eat crap out of the garbage, you’re likely to get something bad.

To me its like the burglar scenario
If a man breaks in my house in the middle of the night and I shoot him dead, am I guilty of anything other than protecting my family? What if the family of the burglar wants to sue?

‘Course in the woman’s case she was actually trying to do something evil…. so I don’t really know I guess.

The second one, he is totally guilty. Its murder through and through.

weeveeship's avatar

The thing about murder is intent.

The first case is not murder. The person did not intend to murder the homeless person. At worst, the person can be convicted of manslaughter.

The second case could be murder. We cannot read the guys mind, but we can infer from his actions that he planned to kill the woman (setting up the trap, tricking her into the trap, releasing the trap). I think he would be guilty.

Edit: If the woman sprung the trap herself, then the guy might have a chance getting acquitted. However, I think the man’s lawyers would have a tough case to prove since the guy did set a trap.

Kraigmo's avatar

A woman wanting to poison her husband puts arsenic in his apple, but he throws it away. A homeless person fishes it out of the trash, eats it, and ultimately dies. Has the woman murdered him?

This should be a no-brainer to people. Of course it’s murder. More likely manslaughter, if one were to get all legalistic. She intended to murder someone, and someone got murdered by the weapon she improvised. And that victim made no conscious choice to do something that would kill himself.

What if a man goes to the house of a depressed woman carrying a rope and a box. He ties one end of the rope to the rafter, the other end into a noose and places the box below. Suppose he convinces her to put her head in the noose and kick the box out from under herself. Has he murdered her?

No, he didn’t murder her. But he could be liable for harassment at minimum (a noose tied by a stranger on someone else’s front porch is considered a threat by most case law). And if he knows she’s depressed, and does that, he is guilty of willfull negligence at minimum. But seeing as how it’s her own property, the charges (and the moral penance owed) would and should be a lot worse usually.

In everything I said here, I sorta juxtaposed both moral law and legal law, not for contrast, but in the fact they are similar here. When someone is killed… the judgments of society in both moral law and legal law tend to be similar.

Nially_Bob's avatar

From a legal standpoint the apple situation is extremely clear cut. Anyone of sound and sober mind could realise, upon intentionally placing arsenic into an apple, that it could kill someone and that someone may eat it. However, as the intention was not directed at the homeless person the woman would likely be charged with manslaughter and attempted murder.
The hanging situation is trickier, there are laws present in both the UK, US and Germany (among others) which instate that a person cannot be found guilty by omission, that is if A finds B about to hang himself and chooses not to act A cannot be found guilty of a crime. As unfortunate as many of the scenarios that can arise from this are it’s generally considered an important element in western law. Whether it applies to the hanging situation however is difficult to deduce given that the man actively participated. There have been precedents set concerning the defence of suicide pacts but whether this could be deemed a similar situation is debatable. Altogether, the man would probably not be found guilty of murder if the woman genuinely wished to die, but it would be at the discretion of the jury.
I used to study English law and the exams consisted mainly of situation descriptions such as these followed by questions concerning the liability, possible charges, defences and mitigating factors of those involved in each case. It was good fun.
It should be noted that i’m approaching this matter based on my legal knowledge and not from a moral standpoint which would lead to far greater speculation.

iamthemob's avatar

Legally – @Kraigmo has got it down. I disagree as to the second example, though. Considering that he knew that she was depressed, brought all the instrumentalities, and talked her through each step…there’s a murder charge there for sure. (of course, as mentioned, there’s always the issue of whether you’re going to go for a lesser charge with a better chance to prove).

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@Nially_Bob that is actually where the author of the book said these scenarios came from: exams for law students. I have never studied law, so this was the first time I’d been presented with the chance to think about such scenarios. After doing so I’ve come to the conclusion that I would make a lousy lawyer. :)

Nially_Bob's avatar

@TheOnlyNeffie Truth be told I was never much good at it myself. It’s all too often your answer (expected to be atleast an A4 page per question) would come down to a dragged out method of phrasing “BURN ‘IM! BUUUURN ‘IM!” ;)

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@Nially_Bob lol, I can see how that would happen.

Fernspider's avatar

I am of the opinion that the suicide assistance situation is not murder. Sure, he is a nasty piece of work for supplying the tools and the ability for the woman to kill herself but she had a choice and ended her own life. I feel it would be unfair to hold someone legally liable for someone elses actions.

If I happened to provide someone with a loaded gun and they killed themselves with it, ultimately I am not in control of their actions. Even if I was to convince someone to take their own life, the choice is theirs. Supplying the means does not equate to actually murdering someone.

Law on the other hand could potentially see it differently, but I hold the suicidal person responsible for their own life – depressed or not.

iamthemob's avatar

@Rachienz – I agree with you in a way. Everyone makes their own choices. But if we solely say “It’s her fault” then we get into the nasty realm of blaming the victim.

Here, it seems that she would not have died when she did were it not for his intentional (and cartoonishly villainous) actions. Just because she ended up doing the final act, he acted with at least a reckless disregard for human life. That should get him in trouble too.

Also, depression (true depression) means that you’re chemically off-keel. Such people would be more open to suggestion than they might be had they been properly medicated. And he knew this.

Of course, we draw the line somewhere. But it’s kind of like a guy getting into the car with an obviously drunk driver. There’s a crash and the passenger dies. We’re not going to let the driver off the hook because the passenger made a stupid choice.

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