Citation. 112 R.I. 402, 311 A.2d 281,1973 R.I.998.
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Brief Fact Summary.
The Defendant, Henry Rose, was charged with manslaughter after he struck the victim, David J. McEnery, with his car and drove away with the victim wedged underneath the automobile.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
Where one of two actions of the Defendant-one negligent, one not negligent-causes death and a reasonable finding could be made that the non-negligent act caused the death, the Defendant cannot be guilty of manslaughter.
According to an eyewitness, the victim, a pedestrian, began to cross the street. When he reached the middle of the southbound lane, he was struck by a car driven by the Defendant. The victim’s body was thrown up onto the hood. The Defendant stopped momentarily, the body of the victim rolled off the hood, and the Defendant drove away. Later that day, the Defendant’s car was located near the scene of the accident with the victim’s body wedged underneath the vehicle.
Did the trial court err in denying the Defendant’s motion for a directed verdict of acquittal?
Yes. The medical examiner could not determine precisely whether the victim’s death occurred at impact with the Defendant’s vehicle or while being dragged by the Defendant’s vehicle. Since there was no evidence of negligence on the part of the Defendant in striking the victim, the state would have to prove that the victim was still alive when the Defendant improperly drove away and that the Defendant’s now-negligent actions in fleeing the scene caused the victim’s death. The evidence did not conclusively prove when death occurred. Therefore, the Defendant cannot be liable for death.
Since the burden of proof in criminal cases is beyond a reasonable doubt, the State must prove the exact cause of the crime where two plausible theories exist. Otherwise, there is no criminal liabili