Where a defendant's failure to exercise reasonable care to prevent the risk he created is reckless and results in death, the defendant can be convicted of involuntary manslaughter.
The defendants were living in an abandoned warehouse when they accidentally started a fire. When the fire began to spread, the defendants fled the scene, but made no attempt to notify anyone of the fire. As a result, the fire became much more dangerous and intense. Six firefighters were killed attempting to put out the blaze. The grand jury indicted the defendants for involuntary manslaughter. The defendants appealed, and the superior court dismissed the indictments. The state then appealed.
Were the indictments for involuntary manslaughter valid against the defendants?
Yes, the state supreme court reversed the dismissal.
The court held that when a defendant failed to exercise reasonable care to prevent a risk he created, and that risk resulted in a death, then the defendant could be convicted of involuntary manslaughter. The state presented sufficient evidence to allow a jury to reasonably conclude the defendants were reckless in preventing a risk they created. Thus, the state supreme court reversed the lower court’s order and held the defendants could be charged.