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Brief Fact Summary. Two police helicopters, assisting in the high-speed pursuit of the Defendant, Acosta’s (Defendant) automobile, collided with each other, resulting in the deaths of three people. Defendant was convicted on three counts of second degree murder on the basis that his actions in evading police caused the helicopter collision.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Defendant’s conduct was a proximate cause of the helicopter collision insomuch as it was a foreseeable consequence that he might reasonably have contemplated.
The better practice in the future is to charge juries solely in the straightforward language of the conscious disregard for human life definition of implied malice.View Full Point of Law
Issue. Was the collision of the helicopters a foreseeable consequence of Defendant’s actions in evading police?
Held. The collision of two police helicopters during the course of a pursuit of a fleeing suspect was not a highly extraordinary outcome. Rather, it was within the realm of likelihood that, in the heat of such a chase, one of the helicopter operators might act in a negligent manner. Defendant could have foreseen such a consequence arising from his own reckless conduct, for which reason his actions were a proximate cause of the collision.
Dissent. The occupants of the colliding helicopters were not within Defendant’s “range of apprehension” in driving in a reckless manner. The collision was therefore a highly extraordinary result that Defendant could not have foreseen.
Discussion. This case illustrates the outer limits of the “foreseeability” element in determining the presence of proximate cause for criminal actions. The majority interprets foreseeability broadly, holding that it can include the reasonable anticipation of intervening negligence by other actors. The dissent takes a narrower view of foreseeability, falling back on the “range of apprehension” construct used in civil liability suits.