Jackson v. State

The Facts

Defendants robbed a jewelry store and took $10k worth of jewelry, placing two store owners and one customer on the floor at gunpoint.  Police were called and surrounded the store, deterring the defendants from fleeing the scene.  Defendants grabbed two hostages and put a handgun to their necks and left the store with the victims.  Police ordered them to release their hostage, but defendants ignored. Defendants and victims got in a police car and drove away, but police disabled the car by gunfire.  Defendants stole another police car and drove away amid police fire.  They then stopped and forced victims into a citizen’s car and fled still. Defendant’s traveled some way when the vehicle’s tired were punctured by police fire and the car was halted at a roadblock.  Police at the roadblock were unaware of the victims in the car held hostage and fired at the car. Officer White jumped on the hood of the car with his shotgun.  Defendant was holding his firearm out of the window in surrender.  Officer’s White attempted to knock the gun out of his hand with his own shotgun; and his shotgun discharged, killing the victim.


Homicide is established “… upon commission of a criminal homicide in perpetration of, or in the attempt to perpetrate, a felony.”

The Issue

Whether the “accidental killing of a hostage by a law enforcement officer attempting to apprehend robbers fleeing from an armed robbery while holding the hostage at gunpoint constitutes murder in the first degree on the part of the robbers.”

The Holding

Yes.  Defendants engaged in criminal kidnapping.  The evidence is sufficient to prove murder of the victim in the first degree if the killing may be attributed to the defendants.  “It is not essential to the existence of a causal relationship that the ultimate harm which has resulted was foreseen or intended by the actor.  “It is sufficient that the ultimate harm is one which a reasonable man would foresee as being reasonably related to the acts of the defendant.”  The test to be applied is a simple “but for test.”  As in, would the result have occurred “but for” the defendant’s felony actions.  All that’s required is some causal connection, not direct causal relation.  The defendants’ acts “themselves produced the intervening caus of Sugar’s death, and the result is not to be considered remote and was foreseeable.”


“An accused is not responsible for the death of another, unless that fatal harm was caused by the defendant’s act or omission, or by the behavior of persons whose actions are attributable or chargeable to the defendant.”

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