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Two guys use a single rifle to shoot targets in their backyard. One of the bullets flies into the neighbours yard hits an old guy on the head and kills him.

The two guys don't notice anything and continue shooting until the police arrive. The two shooters can't possibly know which one shot the old guy, so who is/are responsible for the crime and why?

This story actually happened and I am aware of the outcome, but tell me what you guys think the verdict should be.

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If it's clear that they were shooting in the direction and within the range of the neighbor's house - which it must be, since they can't determine who shot the lethal bullet -, then they both were negligent and just as likely to be responsible for the neighbor's death. I am not familiar with the legal terms but I would expect it should be negligent homicide or manslaughter, maybe.

Edited by brian0918
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I assume what happened was that the felony murder rule was applied (during the commission of a dangerous felony, any homicide, intentional or accidental, will be considered murder, and all the people charged with the felony will also be charged with murder).

So, even though the Police did determine who's gun fired the shot (which they could do if they recovered the bullet), both were charged with murder in the second degree?

Not sure if the charge would stick though. If the crime was a robbery or a kidnapping, then it would be cut and dried, but in this case it's not. So, it's possible that the prosecution instead decided to only charge the person who fired the bullet, and charge him only with manslaughter (which, if the felony murder rule doesn't apply - because reckless discharging of a firearm isn't considered a dangerous felony, is what the crime is).

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As for what the penalty should be, that depends on the particulars of the case. If there is provable disregard for human life (the accident wasn't the result of a freak ricochet, the two shooters could be reasonably expected to realize that firing in that direction is dangerous, but just didn't care), then they should both be charged with murder.

Otherwise, only the shooter should be charged, and only with manslaughter.

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I assume what happened was that the felony murder rule was applied (during the commission of a dangerous felony, any homicide, intentional or accidental, will be considered murder, and all the people charged with the felony will also be charged with murder).

So, even though the Police did determine who's gun fired the shot (which they could do if they recovered the bullet), both were charged with murder in the second degree?

Not sure if the charge would stick though. If the crime was a robbery or a kidnapping, then it would be cut and dried, but in this case it's not. So, it's possible that the prosecution instead decided to only charge the person who fired the bullet, and charge him only with manslaughter (which, if the felony murder rule doesn't apply - because reckless discharging of a firearm isn't considered a dangerous felony, is what the crime is).

Wrong.

Since the murderer could not be determined both of them were found innocent on the charges of murder.

They did get some punishment for illegal use of firearms though...

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