Brief Fact Summary. The Defendant, McVay (Defendant), was charged as accessory before the fact in a larger manslaughter prosecution arising out of an explosion that occurred on a Newport-bound steamer which killed several passengers.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. A defendant may be charged as accessory before the fact even in manslaughter crimes where the resulting harm is not intentional.
Issue. Can a defendant be held liable as accessory before the fact in a manslaughter prosecution where the resulting harm was unintentional?
It cannot be broadly stated that premeditation – of the kind contemplated in an accessory before the fact charge – is inconsistent with every charge of manslaughter. There is no reason why, prior to the commission of a manslaughter-type crime, a person may not aid and abet another in the doing of an unlawful act or the doing of a lawful act in a negligent manner. In counseling co-defendants to continue using the steamer for passenger transport despite knowledge that the boiler was unsafe, the Defendant exercised a conscious choice among various courses of conduct. If the facts set for in the indictments are true, a jury could find that the Defendant, fully aware of the danger to human life, counseled the captain and engineer of the ship to take their chances piloting a ship with an unsafe boiler.
The contemnor must offer evidence as to his inability to comply and the evidence must be of a kind the court finds credible.View Full Point of Law