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United States v. Robertson

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Robertson appealed an involuntary manslaughter conviction after his son died of anorexia and bulimia while in his care.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    A person cannot be convicted of involuntary manslaughter if the victim did not inform the defendant of a deteriorating condition.

    Facts.

    Brad was visiting his father, Robertson, on break from school. When Brad realized that he could lose weight through bulimia and anorexia, Brad began starving himself and vomiting. A doctor found Brad to be healthy while in his father’s care. Brad died of cardiac arrest and Robertson was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for his role in Brad’s death.

    Issue.

    Whether a person can be convicted of involuntary manslaughter if the victim did not inform the defendant of a deteriorating condition?

    Held.

    No. Robert’s involuntary manslaughter conviction is overturned. Robertson acted as a reasonable parent under the circumstances because the doctor determined Brad to be in good health while in his father’s care and Brad withheld his condition from Robertson.

    Dissent.

    (Cox, J.) Robertson’s conviction should be upheld because any reasonable person would see how thin Brad was getting and would bring Brad to the doctor as a result.

    Concurrence.

    (Gierke, J.) Robertson’s conviction should be overturned because Robertson could not bring his son to the doctor if Robertson did not have actual knowledge of his son’s deteriorating condition.

    Discussion.

    An individual can be found guilty of involuntary manslaughter if the individual failed to provide a duty of care where a reasonable person with the same duty of care would have acted.


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