Grand Junction, CO asked in Criminal Law and Personal Injury for Colorado

Q: How would someone, attempting to commit suicide, jumped off a building then landed on and killed someone, be tried?

This is assuming the jumper survives and is in a condition in which they can appear at court

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2 Lawyer Answers
Ronald V. Miller Jr.
Ronald V. Miller Jr. pro label Lawyers, want to be a Justia Connect Pro too? Learn more ›

A: This is a pretty crazy and awful hypothetical for sure. In some jurisdictions, the jumper might be charged with manslaughter or another form of homicide. Manslaughter generally involves causing the death of another person without intending to kill them, which could be applicable in this situation. The exact charge and potential penalties would vary depending on the laws and legal standards of the jurisdiction where the incident occurred.

In addition to possible criminal charges related to the death of the other person, the jumper might also face charges or consequences related to the attempted suicide. In some places, attempted suicide is still considered a criminal act, although this is becoming less common. In jurisdictions where suicide is not criminalized, the jumper may be subject to a mental health evaluation and treatment if deemed necessary.

Michael Joseph Larranaga agrees with this answer

Michael Joseph Larranaga
Michael Joseph Larranaga pro label Lawyers, want to be a Justia Connect Pro too? Learn more ›
  • Parker, CO
  • Licensed in Colorado

A: Agreed. This is an awful hypothetical but something you may see in a law school practice book. I will approach this as if it could be a practice question for law school. Please note that I do not practice criminal law but I am always up for a lively discussion.

If there is no intent to kill, then you have to ask if there was reckless disregard for human life. IE, if the jumper jumped knowing there was a crowd of people below and it was possible if not likely he may hit one or more of them, then that could raise the level of the crime. Depending on your jurisdiction, 2nd degree may not be out of the question.

I would also consider giving lip service to 1st degree and briefly explaining why or why not it would not qualify. The intent would be rather hard to prove but depraved heart would need to be discussed.

I would think your primary argument would be manslaughter which could include gross negligence.

In addition, as Mr. Miller pointed out attempted suicide is still a crime in various jurisdictions.

In terms of writing, focus the core of your writing on the best arguments but pay lip service to the weaker arguments. While you may elect not to do this in real life, it is important to practice for the bar exam and to develop the real-life skills to flush out alternative theories.

Hopefully, this is not a real situation. Good Luck.

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