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.
No greater degree of certainty is required when the evidence is circumstantial than when it is direct, for in either case the trier of fact must be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt of the guilt of the accused.View Full Point of Law
Issue. Did the trial court err in denying the Defendant’s motion for a directed verdict of acquittal?
Held. 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.
Discussion. 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