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A Philippine police lieutenant was killed by a rooster, when he tried breaking up an illegal cock fight that is linked to the spread of Covid-19.

Would the owner of the rooster be criminally liable for murder, even though he didn't do it himself, or would he only face criminal liability for the cock fighting?

Siegel and Johnson's comments below mention intent, which, to me, seems a bit tricky: While the rooster did not intend to kill the police officer, it was armed with a blade, with the intent to kill the other rooster in the cock fight. So, it's an egregious attack, much more than just an accident, given that deadly weapons were involved.

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  • One can only be charged for crime if specific conditions/elements are fullfilled. These, depending on jurasdiction are often defined within a specific law or section/paragraph. All of the defined elements must be fulfilled, before charges for that crime can be made. One element for murder is intent. Did the owner use the rooster with the intent to kill the policeman: Yes/No? Oct 31 '20 at 15:06
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    If the owner of the bird, or anyone else, created a situation in which it was likely that someone would be killed, even if there was no intent to kill the police officer, that might be a crime. In many US states that would be negligent homicide. On the other hand, if the death was not reasonably foreseeable, nor intended, there might be no crime beyond holding an illegal cock fight. All this will depend on the details of the local laws, which I do not know. Oct 31 '20 at 15:46
  • @DavidSiegel I guess that the defence would argue that the policeman had exactly the same opportunity as the owner to foresee that the razor spurs would be dangerous, but took no precautions. Furthermore it is unlikely that the owner could have foreseen the policeman picking up the cock when he attached the spurs. Nov 2 '20 at 17:41
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    The rooster is not a legal person, and cannot be said to have any legal intent at all. It is the intent, if any, of the person who place the rooster there, who attached spurs to it, who set events in motion that may matter. A person who sets a dangerous machine going that results in a death may or may not be guilty of a crime, depending on the facts. But the machine is never guilty, for (outside of SF) a machine cannot think, and has no intent. The gun does not murder, the shooter may. Nov 2 '20 at 18:23
  • What matters is the intent of the rooster owner, not the intent of the rooster.
    – ohwilleke
    Nov 2 '20 at 19:01
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The crimes of murder and homicide are defined under Philippine law in Art. 248 and Art. 249 of the Penal code, both of which reduce the act to the case where "Any person who, not falling within the provisions of Article 246 shall kill another". Murder is distinguished by having certain attending circumstances, such as "with treachery; for money; by drowning; with evident premediation", none of which are applicable here. In the case of homicide, it is necessary that the accused killed the person without any justifying circumstance. The rooster killed the officer, no person did. For comparison, here are the homicide states of Washington State. Second degree homicide is defined as:

A person is guilty of manslaughter in the second degree when, with criminal negligence, he or she causes the death of another person.

A noticeable difference in the laws is that in Washington, "causing death" is the defining act, consistent with the definition of homicide as

the killing of a human being by the act, procurement, or omission of another

In the Philippines it is "killing another", not "causing the death of another". This document from the Dep't of Justice (the Criminal Code of the Philippines) states that as a general principle of Philippine law that

Only intentional conduct is punishable. Negligent conduct is punishable only when specifically provided under this Code or other laws.

Intent is therefore an implicit element of the crime, and because negligence is not included for homicide, a negligent killing is not a homicide. Given all of this, the law would not classify this as homicide, given the facts as reported and the improbability that anyone intended to cause a death.

However:

The offender shall be responsible for all the effects arising from the commission of illegal acts.

The cock-fighting event appears to be presently illegal, there being a covid-related ban on cock-fighting (which is not generally illegal). I will assume that the event was in fact illegal, in the legal sense, though that is not guaranteed. Crimes that could be charged are (Art. 365) punishes the crime of imprudence and negligence:

Any person who, by reckless imprudence, shall commit any act which, had it been intentional, would constitute a grave felony, shall suffer the penalty of arresto mayor in its maximum period to prision correccional in its medium period

or, with a lesser penalty (up to 6 months) for "simple imprudence". Since The Philippines is a civil law jurisdiction with a US case law veneer, it is hard to be certain, but it is likely that this is at least "simple imprudence".

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