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People v. Roe

Citation. People v. Roe, 542 N.E.2d 610 (N.Y. 1989)
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Brief Fact Summary.

Roe appealed his depraved heart murder conviction after murdering Seifert in a game of Russian roulette. 

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

Depraved Heart Murder exists where death results from a killing that is dangerous and is likely to result in death. 


Roe put live and blank rounds into a gun and played Russian roulette with Seifert. Seifert ended up dying as a result. Roe was charged with depraved heart murder and the court of appeals affirmed. 


Whether playing Russian roulette with a gun is sufficient to satisfy depraved heart murder? 


Yes. Russian roulette is reckless and has a high risk of death, sufficient to satisfy depraved heart murder. 


(Bellacosa, J.) The chance of someone dying from Russian roulette is great but not certain. Convicting Roe of depraved heart murder is convicting Roe for conduct that is partly likely to result in death. Roe’s actions did not satisfy depraved heart murder. 


Mixing a gun with live and blank rounds and firing those rounds leave the risk of death up to chance, making the conduct reckless and likely to result in death.

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