Commonwealth v. Howard

402 A.2d 674



A parent has the legal duty to protect her child, and the discharge of this duty requires affirmative performance.


The defendant as found guilty of manslaughter when her five-year-old child was killed. The defendant claims that there is insufficient evidence to prove that her actions were reckless or directly caused the death of her daughter. She claimed that her boyfriend was the one who inflicted the deadly force, and not her. The trial court held that her culpability lied in her failure to protect her child. The defendant appealed.


Is the defendant criminally liable for the death of her daughter?




The court held that there was sufficient evidence to prove that the defendant’s failure to protect her daughter was the direct cause of the child’s death, and that the failure was grossly negligent under the circumstances. The defendant and her boyfriend had a long history of beating the young child. The court further reasoned that the defendant disregarded the known risk to her daughter, which resulted in a gross deviation from the actions of a reasonable parent. The fact that she knew full well of her child’s suffering, yet did nothing to remedy it was evidence to satisfy the culpability requirements of involuntary manslaughter.

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