So a guy is pushing his truck down the road with his family inside. A drunk driver rams into the truck killing his two sons, 11 and 12 years old. Dad runs home, gets his gun and kills the drunk driver. Dad is being charged with murder. Is that the right charge?
Whole story is here.
I don't know the degrees of severity assigned with the various killing offenses (murder vs. manslaughter, etc.) but I think some charge is appropriate. Mitigating circumstances should be considered in sentencing.
What I don't get is how he could bolt off after his gun when one of the boys was still alive, but later died at hospital, and his wife and a daughter were still in the truck? They would have been my first priority, not vengeance. Something seems really off here.
As for the drunk's family saying it was just an accident, I think that is just disgusting. How about admitting your kinsman was wrong, wrong, wrong? That can be done without condoning or excusing the Dad's response.
Murder is generally defined as "the unlawful premeditated killing of one human being by another." So yes, I'd say this was murder. I would also agree that there were mitigating circumstances so this would most likely be classified as voluntary manslaughter:
"Voluntary manslaughter sometimes called a "Heat of Passion" murder, is any intentional killing that involved no prior intent to kill, and which was committed under such circumstances that would "cause a reasonable person to become emotionally or mentally disturbed." Both this and second degree murder are committed on the spot, but the two differ in the magnitude of the circumstances surrounding the crime. For example, a bar fight that results in death would ordinarily constitute second degree murder. If that same bar fight stemmed from a discovery of infidelity, however, it may be mitigated to voluntary manslaughter." via Wikipedia.
+1 for the legal explication
Crim Law was a long time ago, but "murder is the unlawful killing of another human being with malice aforethought." "Aforethought" can be "in an instant." [I don't make the rules; I just live within them. If you don't like them, write your state representatives.]
I haven't watched the video, but I think a murder CHARGE is appropriate here. The killing, as described here, was unlawful, and there's more than enough time for the malice requirement. The paterfamilias will be able to defend the charge on the grounds that he was in a state of shock and unable to know right from wrong, or was in a lesser state of agitation such that he knew right from wrong but his excitement clouded his judgment. That latter part is me paraphrasing the law; I can't remember the precise language whereby murder is reduced to a lesser form of homicide in circumstances such as this.
The classic example is the husband walking in on his wife and another man; the cases are split on whether shooting them in that moment is murder or a lesser degree of homicide. Here, because the shooter was physically involved in the disturbing incident, there's a possibility for PTSD, etc.
It will then be up to a jury, with testimony from mental health experts for the prosecution and defense, as well as the defendant himself, to try to figure out how much was in his head when he pulled the trigger.
Aside: On the driver, while we've quoted the classic definition of murder, legislatures have changed the definition when it comes to drunk driving. There are various ways of doing this, from increasing the sentence when the death was because of a drunk driving accident (vehicular manslaughter), to making a special murder definition for drunk driving deaths (something like, "Murder is [traditional definition] or causing the death of another human being through driving while intoxicated"). The practical consequences are the same - The driver goes to jail for a longer time than he would if the circumstances were mere negligence, or another kind of negligence. But the "is it murder?" answer is technically different.
If murder means anything, I'd have to say yes, it is.
Yeah, its murder. Probably voluntary manslaughter. Maybe reckless homicide.
Can't say I completely blame him, or that I wouldn't have done the same thing if I'd just watched a drunk driver kill my kids. He'd probably be acquitted on "temporary insanity" if he'd had the gun with him. The fact that he went home to get it will probably get him convicted with a fairly light sentence.
Don't feel a bit sorry for the guy that got shot. He had it coming.
Would anyone be in the "right frame of mind" immediately after watching their children and spouse maimed by another's actions?
No they wouldn't be. So the question is, when tragedy strikes and our right frames of mind leave us and we go on auto-pilot, what dictates our behavior? My theory is that the character we cultivate in calmer circumstances prevails. But what does that say about this person or the pharmacist from Todd's example below? Were these guys just waiting for an excuse to go off on somebody? Couldn't the same be said of the nut-job Dorner?
I agree that a case could be made for "temporary insanity". A few thoughts after watching the video:
First, the two boys were pushing the car along with their father. They weren't in the car. (The mother and younger siblings were in the car.) For me, that changed the scenario very quickly because if you noticed the condition of the totalled vehicles, you could easily imagine how horrific the death of those boys was. And it happened all in front of their father. Also, there were witnesses because they were close to home (about 100 yards away) which tells me that they were in a residential area. Even a half-crazed father might recognize in the heat of the moment that help would be coming for the survivors. His own neighbors might've been the witnesses. Also, the fact that they were so close to home already, lends the argument a hand because he didn't have that far a distance to go; it was a rash decision made in a moment of extreme crisis.
The link StaggerLee provided above.