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Regina v. Cunningham

    Citation. 239 Fed. Appx. 839,2007 U.S. App.

    Brief Fact Summary. In the process of stealing a gas meter, the gas pipes let out gas that exposed an individual to asphyxiation that was not fatal. Appellant contends he did not possess the mental state for the felony associated with the event.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Malice requires actual intention to do a particular kind of harm or recklessness as to whether such harm should occur or not.


    Facts. Appellant went to the cellar of a building and stole the gas meter. Appellant was charged with larceny. He plead guilty and was sentenced to 6 months in prison. As a consequence of this act by Appellant, a woman that lived in the house was endangered from the exposure to gas leaking after Appellant took the gas meter. The prosecution alleged that Appellant was guilty of a felony for malicious administering gas to an individual.

    Issue. Whether Appellant’s actions were also malicious and constituted the crime of felony for malicious administering of gas to an individual.

    Held. Appellant’s appeal is granted because the question of whether his actions were malicious was a question for the jury.
    In any statutory definition of a crime, malice must be taken not in the old vague sense of wickedness in general but requires actual intention to do a particular kind of harm or recklessness as to whether such harm should occur or not.

    It is neither limited to nor does it indeed require any ill will toward the person injured.

    A foreseeable consequence of his actions could be sufficient to constitute maliciousness.


    Discussion. The Court ruled that malice did not require wickedness. Forseeability or recklessness would be sufficient to prove malice. The Court believed that Appellant should have foreseen the consequences of his actions and known that his actions would damage the gas pipeline and possibly expose someone to harmful gas. The Court ruled that is essentially had no choice but the grant Appellant a new trial because the jury had not been give instruction on the correct standard for malice.


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