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United States v. Escamilla

Brief Fact Summary.

Appellant was convicted of involuntary manslaughter. Appellant argued that he was not grossly negligent and that the proper jury instructions were not given.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

Involuntary manslaughter requires that the slayer must be shown to have had actual knowledge that his conduct was a threat to the lives of others.


Appellant was convicted of involuntary manslaughter. Appellant and Victim, as well as several others, were residing on an ice island in the Arctic. During the summer months, no one can reach the island. One resident of the island developed an alcohol problem and became violent, attacking several of the other residents. During this time, Appellant and Victim were arguing about this person’s alcohol problem. Appellant had a gun to protect himself from the resident with the drinking problem. As he was waiving the gun, it discharged and Victim was killed. Appellant timely appealed the conviction.


Whether the proper jury instructions were given for involuntary manslaughter.


Reversed and remanded.
To convict for involuntary manslaughter, a slayer must be shown to have had actual knowledge that his conduct was a threat to the lives of others, or to have knowledge of such circumstances as could reasonably be said to have made foreseeable to him the peril to which acts might subject others.

Gross negligence is required for the crime of involuntary manslaughter.

The facts and circumstances, such as the location and situation in which a defendant was in can be considered. What is grossly negligent in Virginia may be different than what is grossly negligent on an Arctic island with no medical facilities or police force.


The Court ruled that the jury was not given the proper instruction regarding involuntary manslaughter. Specifically, the Court noted that there existed proof that the gun Appellant had was defective and could have discharged without Appellant firing it. Further, the Court ruled that the nature and environment that Appellant was in could be taken into account. Appellant resided with only a few others on a small island with little communication with the outside world, no police force and no public facilities. All of these factors could be taken into account to determine whether Appellant was guilty of involuntary manslaughter.

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