Criminal Bullying: Army Soldier's Suicide Leads To Homicide Prosecution.

Author:Mr Hayes Hunt
Profession:Cozen O'Connor

The Army has charged eight soldiers in connection with the death of fellow soldier, Private Danny Chen.  Allegedly, these soldiers threw rocks at Private Chen, taunted him with ethnic slurs, and made him do pull-ups with a mouthful of water.  Later that evening, Private Chen was found dead in a guard tower with "an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound."  The Army charged the eight soldiers with manslaughter and negligent homicide even though Private Chen's death was an apparent suicide.  Such charges in these circumstances raise interesting questions of culpability and criminal causation.

Generally, the law will hold a defendant criminally accountable for homicide only when the defendant's actions are the proximate cause of the victim's death.  Say, for example, you push someone off a bridge.  Here, the connection is easy to make because your actions are the direct cause of the victim's death.  Such a case exists in the alleged hazing death of Florida A&M University drum major Robert Champion, where the victim's death resulted from the physical injuries sustained during a brutal hazing episode. 

Next, say you tell someone he should jump off a bridge because he is overweight, and he jumps.  Now, the causal connection is more difficult to make because your actions are only the indirect cause of the victim's death.  In these cases, the defendant's actions may simply set into motion a chain of events that eventually leads to the victim's death.  At some point, however, the victim's death is so remote from the defendant's actions that holding the defendant criminal responsible for the death is inappropriate. 

But say you tell someone he should jump off a bridge because he is overweight, you expect that he will jump when you tell him this, and he jumps.  Now, your actions combined with your expectations could push you across the line of being criminally responsible...

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