Thursday, September 4, 2008

Accomplice Liability

"As Reneau's partner, Jeffrey Wood, waited in the getaway car, the bandit fatally shot store clerk Kriss Keeran in the face. Six years later, Reneau was executed for the murder. Today, unless courts or Gov. Rick Perry intervene, Wood also will be put to death. ... If Wood is executed, he would be the fourth murder accomplice--as opposed to actual killer--put to death through Texas' law of parties in recent years. The law has been part of the state penal cocde since at least 1879. 'It's a pretty traditional criminal law that accomplices and co-conspirators are equally held culpable,' said University of Houston law professor Sandra Thompson, a criminal law specialist. 'You don't have to specifically agree to commit a killing. You agree to commit the target crime. Then any other crimes that are forseeable, you're responsible'," Houston Chronicle, 21 August 2008.

"In a blistering opinion that labeled state court proceedings 'an insane system,' a federal judge Thursday halted the execution of Jeffrey Wood to allow mental health experts to determine whether the killer is sane enough to be put to death", Houston Chronicle, 22 August 2008.

Thompson correctly stated what I call criminal vicarious liability. To the best of my knowledge all 50 states have it. It's also called "Pinkerton" liability, from Pinkerton v US, 90 L Ed 1489 (1946) and found at 18 USC 2, with respect to aiders and abettors. It still amazes me we can execute a man in the US for joining a robbery conspiracy when his co-conspirator does the actual shooting, yet not hold a CPA or investment banking firm civilly liable for participating in a securities fraud conspiracy under Stoneridge. See my 26 January 2008 post. Artificial entities like CPA firms have more rights than indviduals in the US.

The judge's basis for the stay did not challenge the concept of accomplice liability.

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