This is a hypothetical that I encountered in a work of fiction. The work itself wasn't really a story about law and only briefly discussed the possible ramifications, but I thought I would bring it here because I found it really interesting. I'll summarize the case as follows:
Bob Jr. wants to murder his father, Bob Sr. Bob Jr. has all of the required mens rea to commit murder (malice aforethought), he is just waiting for the most opportune moment to commit the actus reus at the lowest likelihood of being caught. Alice, a person with no existing relationship, agreement, or arrangement with either men, kidnaps Bob Sr. and holds him for ransom because the Bobs are rich and are well-known to pay money to make trouble go away. Bob Jr. stages what appears to be a "daring" full-frontal rescue mission/raid to rescue his father, but it is entirely a ruse. Once he's in Alice's facilities, he kills his father with a bomb in a manner calculated to appear as if Bob Sr. was just collateral damage of a rescue attempt rather than the target of a murder plot. Since Bob Jr. is far richer than he is smart, the police figure out the truth pretty quickly and both Bob Jr. and Alice are arrested. Bob Jr. is charged with murder, and Alice is charged with both kidnapping and murder.
Clearly, Bob Jr. is guilty of murder and Alice is guilty of kidnapping. Is Alice also guilty of felony murder because Bob Sr. died in her custody in connection with her kidnapping of him?
My initial thought is that kidnapping would qualify as an "inherently dangerous" crime that would put the offender (Alice) under notice that she could be guilty of felony murder if someone dies, but it seems like Bob Jr. entirely separate criminal scheme might constitute a new intervening cause and place all of the murder liability on Bob Jr. with Alice being guilty only of kidnapping. While the possibility of someone dying in a bona-fide rescue attempt might be reasonably foreseeable by Alice and imported to her, the convenient arrival of a third-party murderer out for blood against her victim specifically might be a bit too much to be reasonably foreseeable.
I'm interested in reasoning or cases from any common law jurisdiction on how this might be handled.
- Bob Jr. and Alice are sane, competent adults and there are no reasons why they would be judged not criminally responsible or unable to stand trial due to insanity. Bob Sr. was a competent adult and not under any kind of guardianship or in any kind of legal custody of Bob Jr. or Alice.
- Bob Jr.'s mens rea to commit murder was perfected and lasted throughout his entire scheme up to the moment of his father's death. No defense on the basis of lack of mens rea or lack of convergence between mens rea and actus reus is plausible.
- Alice had both the mens rea and actus reus to commit kidnapping. She will be found guilty of kidnapping. She was aware that kidnapping is a violent crime that can sometimes lead to death but she had no active intent or plan to kill anyone and the place she was holding her victim was not set up to be a deathtrap. It only became a deathtrap because a third-party murderer broke in.
- Alice had no reasonable reason to suspect that Bob Jr. (or anyone) was planning to murder her victim.
- Evidence showing all of the facts above has been introduced in trial and will be used by the trier of law and trier of fact. No relevant evidence is missing, lost, or inadmissible and no misleading or false evidence will be admitted. In other words, this is a question purely on substantive law and not on procedural rules of trial or evidence or the possibility of an erroneous finding of law of fact.
- No other hypothetical "gotcha" shenanigans are present. This doesn't take place across a jurisdictional border, this doesn't take place in virtual reality, and none of the characters are actually cats.