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People v. Stamp

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Defendant Stamp was charged with first degree murder and robbery after a company manager of a bank died during the commencement of the robbery.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    If during the commission of an inherently dangerous crime, a killing occurs, a criminal defendant can be charged with the murder of that victim.

    Facts.

    Stamp and his accomplice entered into the General Amusement Company office and ordered all the employees, including the company manager, to a certain location where he took all the money they had on their persons. Immediately after the robbery the company manager began having trouble breathing and informed an officer he was feeling ill. The company manager collapsed and died of a heart attack. Stamp and his co-defendants were charged with the murder. Multiple physicians testified that the company manager suffered from a case of atherosclerosis and that but for the shock he encountered from the robbery, he would not have died. The defendants were charged with the murder

    Issue.

    Whether if during the commission of an inherently dangerous crime, a killing occurs, a criminal defendant can be charged with the murder of that victim.

    Held.

    Yes. If during the commission of an inherently dangerous crime, a killing occurs, a criminal defendant can be charged with the murder of that victim.

    Concurrence.

    None

    Discussion.

    Under California law, a defendant can be liable for a death that occurs during the preparation or commission of a robbery. This is rule is applicable regardless if the killing was intentional or accidental and even if the killing is not a part of the robbery scheme. Malice aforethought is presumed during the commission of a felony such as armed robbery because robbery is a felony that is inherently dangerous in terms of human lives. The rule applies to any death that occurs during the felony and is not limited to deaths that are foreseeable or occur to execute the felony. All that is required is the death is a direct result of the felony.


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