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"Vladimir" decides to beat up "Juan". While it can be proven beyond any reasonable doubt that Vladimir did not intend to kill Juan (merely rough him up a bit), the beating causes an old scar to open up, and Juan bleeds out. The moment he realized that something was wrong, Vladimir called an ambulance and initiated medical care to the best of his ability.

What charges would realistically be brought against Vladimir?

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    Juan's family doesn't bring against Vladimir; the local DA does. And there's no foreseeing if Vladimir would be convicted of anything. Commented Nov 24, 2023 at 21:48
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    Would the downvoters care to say why they did so? Since (considering the number of downvotes) it is clearly flawed, I would like to fix it. Commented Nov 25, 2023 at 1:28

4 Answers 4

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Criminal Charges

Criminal charges be brought by a district attorney. Some states do have private prosecutions but it does not look like Texas allows that. In terms of charges, the Texas murder statute clearly covers this:

(b) A person commits [non-capital murder] if the person:

(2) intends to cause serious bodily injury and commits an act clearly dangerous to human life that causes the death of an individual;

This could qualify as a capital murder if (italics mine)

the person intentionally commits the murder in the course of committing or attempting to commit kidnapping, burglary, robbery, aggravated sexual assault, arson, obstruction or retaliation, or terroristic threat under Section 22.07(a)(1), (3), (4), (5), or (6);

This would also certainly qualify as an aggravated assault whether or not Juan died, but that would probably be a lesser included charge if Juan died as a result.

The prosecutor would also probably include manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide. The operative difference between the two is that manslaughter is "recklessly caus[ing] the death of an individual" while criminally negligent homicide is "caus[ing] the death of an individual by criminal negligence"

If we presume that the method of assault was found not to be likely to cause death (for example, Vladimir shoved Juan and Juan tripped over a rock and cracked his head on the pavement), it would not qualify as murder and the jury would have to decide if it was caused by recklessness or criminal negligence.

Civil Causes of Action

Juan's family may receive restitution from the criminal sentence, and would have a cause of action for wrongful death (italics mine)

(b) A person is liable for damages arising from an injury that causes an individual's death if the injury was caused by the person's or his agent's or servant's wrongful act, neglect, carelessness, unskillfulness, or default.

Unlike the criminal charges, this would be the same cause of action even if the death was caused assault not likely to cause serious harm, the difference would be in the judgement amount.

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Without intention to at least cause bodily harm that is likely to kill, there is no murder

Only where a person (A) causes the death of another (B) while:

  • intending to kill B; or
  • intending to cause bodily harm that A knows is likely to kill B, and is reckless whether death ensues,

then A has committed murder.

The scenario in your hypothetical is at least manslaughter

If neither of those intentions are present, but A kills B because of an unlawful act (like "roughing B up a little bit"), then A has committed manslaughter. There are also other ways to commit manslaughter, but the "unlawful act" pathway deals with your hypothetical.

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Murder

This charge is brought by the State of Texas, not the victim’s family.

Sec. 19.02. MURDER.

(b) A person commits an offense if the person:

(2) intends to cause serious bodily injury and commits an act clearly dangerous to human life that causes the death of an individual;

(3) commits or attempts to commit a felony, other than manslaughter, and in the course of and in furtherance of the commission or attempt, or in immediate flight from the commission or attempt, the person commits or attempts to commit an act clearly dangerous to human life that causes the death of an individual;

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Not intending to kill but killing is manslaughter.

That's the charge the district attorney (and not Juan's family) would bring, and it would probably stick in the trial.

The specific flavor of manslaughter will depend on whether the jury believes that Vladimir indeed only intended to "merely rough him up a bit", or wanted to beat the shit out of him.

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  • Most jurisdictions have something like an "extreme indifference" clause so if your actions carried a clear risk of causing death you can still be charged with murder even if death wasn't your intent. For example "We wanted to rough him up by striking him repeatedly in the head with a crowbar" Commented Nov 25, 2023 at 0:16

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