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State v. Foster

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Defendant, Micheal Foster, was charged and convicted as an accessory to a criminally negligent act.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    If a defendant has the requisite mens rea for a criminal act and intentionally aided another person in that act, they may be charged as an accessory to a criminally negligent act.

    Facts.

    As Foster’s girlfriend was walking near school, she was attacked, robbed, and raped, and the perpetrator held a straight edge razor to her throat during the attack. After the attack, the girlfriend described the features of her attacker to Foster in great detail and Foster, accompanied by a friend, went on a search for anyone matching the features of the attacker. They found a man matching the description of the attacker, William Middleton, and they proceeded to beat him up, while Middleton denied any involvement. Foster told his friend to hold Middleton there while he went to retrieve his girlfriend to identify Middleton, to ensure they had caught the right attacker. Foster gave his friend a knife to ensure that Middleton would not escape. After Foster left, Middleton charged at Foster’s friend, and the friend was forced to stab him. It turns out that Middleton was found to have a straight edge razor in his pocket and was positively identified as the girlfriend’s attacker. Foster argued he could not be charged as an accessory to the criminally negligent act.

    Issue.

    Whether if a defendant has the requisite mens rea for a criminal act and intentional aided another person in that act, they may be charged as an accessory to a criminally negligent act.

    Held.

    Yes. If a defendant has the requisite mens rea for a criminal act and intentional aided another person in that act, they may be charged as an accessory to a criminally negligent act.

    Concurrence.

    None

    Discussion.

    In order for a defendant to be charged as Foster was, the prosecution must prove he intentionally aided the principal in the criminal act and also had the intention of committing the criminal act. Because the death at issue was unintended, Foster contends it makes no sense that he could have intended an unintended death. However, Foster’s argument misses the mark because to be guilty of accomplice liability, it is not required that the defendant have the objective to cause the direct result of the crime but all that is required is that the accessory has the requisite state of mind. Thus, it follows that as long as the defendant has the intention to aid the principal while failing to assess the risk of death that is likely to occur, they are guilty of accomplice liability. Here, Foster gave his friend the knife and instructed that he hold Middleton at the scene until he returned and thus, failed to perceive the possible consequences that would stem from leaving his friend with a knife to guard Middleton.


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