When Does An Accidental Shooting Turn Into Murder?


Last weekend, Timothy Stansbury Jr., an unarmed teenager with no record, was shot and killed on the roof of a Brooklyn housing project by an 11-year veteran officer, Richard Neri, who had never fired his gun and had no history of complaints, reports the New York Times.

Rank-and-file officers, angered that the police commissioner said the shooting appeared unjustified, said it was an accident; Stansbury’s family called it murder. The Times asks, at what point does an accident become a crime?

In the law, the place where accident and crime touch is called criminally negligent homicide. “The gradations all turn on one question and that is, what was the state of mind of the actor?” said law Prof. Stephen Gillers of a New York University.

In the Stansbury case, a grand jury has yet to decide whether Neri will face criminal charges, including criminally negligent homicide. One expert told the Times: “You have to punish that kind of negligence in order to keep people on their toes and to keep people from doing it again.”

Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2004/02/01/weekinreview/01dewa.html?pagewanted=all

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