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A causal relation between the defendant's conduct and the harm for which the prosecutor seeks to impose criminal sanctions is an essential element of every crime. Causation is a question of fact which has to be considered in the light of the totality of circumstances surrounding the ultimate harm and its relation to the actor's conduct. A defendant should not be held responsible for remote and indirect consequences which a reasonable person could not have foreseen as likely to have flowed from his conduct or from those consequences which would have occurred regardless of his conduct.
Defendant and a co-perpetrator made methamphetamines in their mobile home. A police informant bought drugs there, and police raided the trailer. During the raid, an armed co-perpetrator fled, shot at police, and was fatally shot in response. Defendant watched with a gun while another co-perpetrator flushed the drugs down the toilet. Defendant was poised to shoot. Defendant was convicted of attempting to manufacture methamphetamines, manslaughter of a co-perpetrator, and attempted manslaughter of a police officer. Defendant asserted that she could not be held responsible for the felony-manslaughter of the co-perpetrator.
Under the circumstances, could the defendant be held responsible for the felony-manslaughter of the co-perpetrator?
On review, the court held that the felony-manslaughter rule embodied in La. Rev. Stat. Ann. 14:31(2)(a) permitted defendant's conviction for the homicide, despite her lack of intent to cause death or great bodily harm. However, the State was also required to prove that defendant's conduct was a legal cause of the killing. Defendant's conduct in attempting to produce methamphetamine was not a substantial factor in the killing of the co-perpetrator because his death, caused by engaging in gun battle with police, was not reasonably foreseeable when defendant set out to manufacture drugs. The co-perpetrator's actions in fleeing to evade police and firing shots were intervening acts that weakened the causal relationship between defendant's manufacture drugs and the killing. Accordingly, the court reversed the judgment of the court of appeal affirming defendant's conviction and sentence for manslaughter and discharged defendant as to that charge. In all other respects, the judgment of the court of appeals was affirmed.