An individual is criminally liable if his conduct was a sufficiently direct cause of the death, and the ultimate harm is something which should have been foreseen as being reasonably related to his acts.
After defendant set fire to a couch in an abandoned building, an independent fire broke out on a different floor. The fire department responded to the conflagration, and a fireman died from injuries he sustained during the evacuation. Defendant was indicted on two counts of murder in the second degree and arson in the third degree, and he filed a motion to dismiss the counts of murder. The court denied that motion.
Was defendant's act the direct cause of the fireman's death?
It was foreseeable that firemen would have responded to the situation, thus exposing them to a life-threatening danger. The fire set by defendant was an indispensable link in the chain of events that resulted in the death. The court determined that it was hardly credible that defendant's action was not of such a magnitude as to demonstrate a wanton and depraved indifference to human life. Defendant was aware that the building, while abandoned, was occupied by transients and that it was located in the middle of a crowded neighborhood. Moreover, it was not necessary that defendant's conduct be the sole and exclusive factor in the fireman's death.