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February 14, 2006

That's Why Time Magazine Hired St. Andrew Of The Sacred Heart-Ache

First there's this typically, err, emotional outburst:

Dear Mr Cheney,

Just a word, if I may. You are employed by the American people. You are not a monarch; and you are not a Pope. You have seriously wounded another human being. The news was kept from the public for a day. ... Who are you hiding from? And who on earth do you think you are?

Eh. Yes, Cheney should have made an announcement sooner. Why didn't he? Well, just guessing, but to avoid the 24 news coverage titled "CHENEY'S VICTIM: UNDER THE KNIFE!!!" and "AMERICA WAITS: CHENEY'S VICTIM MAY DIE!!!" when it seemed, in all likelihood, to have been a fairly minor shooting (in as much as a shooting could be called "minor"). They hoped the news ("Cheney shoots man, and he liked that guy!") would be released at the same time the man left surgery in stable condition, thus denying the media 24 hours of death-watch coverage.

Self-serving? Yes. Bad faith? Well, yes, that too, but understandable given the media's own bad faith.

Impeachable? King-like? Pope-like? (PS, when did St. Andrew decide the Pope could shoot a guy and withhold that information? St. Andrew doesn't even believe the Pope is permitted to announce Catholic orthodoxy, for God's sake.)


On to the next bit. This amuses me. A reader sends along Texas' negligent homicide statute, which is pretty much the same as every other state's negligent homicide statute.

'Sec. 19.05.Criminally Negligent Homicide. (a) A person commits an offense if he causes the death of an individual by criminal negligence.

(b) An offense under this section is a state jail felony.
"Criminal negligence" is defined in Sec. 6.03(d) thusly:

A person acts with criminal negligence, or is criminally negligent, with respect to circumstances surrounding his conduct or the result of his conduct when he ought to be aware of a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the circumstances exist or the result will occur. The risk must be of such a nature and degree that the failure to perceive it constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that an ordinary person would exercise under all the circumstances as viewed from the actor's standpoint.

Ever-helpful, Lawyer Andy translates this for you thusly:

From my reading of the statute, a person would be criminally negligent only where their conduct was grossly negligent under the circumstances.

Really? You got that from your reading of the statute? The statute mentions negligence of a gross nature and you translate that as "grossly negligent" for your readers?

Criminal negligence is a hard thing to define, but essentially it's super-negligence. There are almost no crimes at all that can be prosecuted with a mens rea (culpable mental state) of negligence; most require intent, wilfulness, etc. Homicide is a special kind of crime, though, so it's one of the only crimes(actually, it may be the only crime) on that allows a prosecution based on not intent or wilfulness so extreme as to be tantamount to intent but based on mere negligence.

But not mere negligence, really. Not the sort of negligence we know from civil actions, which is just a failure to act according to a reasonable standard of care. Negligent homicide requires a showing of criminal negligence, above and beyond the a deviation from a reasonable standard of care. Again, even in law school the point is sort of vague and defined more by what it's not than what it is ("it's not quite intent... it's not quite simple negligence... it's kinda sorta in between..."), but suffice to say it's a hard thing to prove. You pretty much have to be knowingly acting with extreme indifference to human safety to be found criminally negligent.

There's no way Cheney's accident qualifies. It's a... hunting accident. They happen, unfortunately, all the time, and unless Cheney can be proven to be acting not with normal carelessness (obviously he was careless, or else he wouldn't have plugged a guy) but with gross carelessness bordering on callousness to human life.

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posted by Ace at 10:42 PM

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