Involuntary Manslaughter in Contemporary Settings Case: State v. Williams, 484 P.2d 1167 (1971) [p.


Facts: Δ's baby was sick, but didn’t bring the child to the doctor because they were afraid the Welfare Dept would take the baby away. Also, they just believed the child had a toothache, and it would go away. Δ convicted of manslaughter for negligently failing to supply their child with necessary medical attention. Holding: • At CL, in case of involuntary manslaughter, breach had to be more than ordinary or simple negligence, and gross negligence was necessary. But state (WA) statute says voluntary or involuntary manslaughter when death is a proximate result of only simple of ordinary negligence. o Simple or ordinary negligence - failure to exercise the "ordinary caution" necessary to make out a defense of excusable homicide. Ordinary caution - where a man of reasonable prudence would exercise under the same or similar conditions. o Court holds that, applying the standard of ordinary caution, Δs sufficiently put on notice of baby's condition to have required them to obtain medical attention. Sufficient for manslaughter. Class Notes • common law - needs more than just ordinary or simple negligence, • WA, when they codified the crime, used ordinary or simple negligence. This is NOT the norm. • WHO is the reasonable person??? o 6th grade education o Fear child being taken away (native american norms) o There are characteristics specific to these people. Does this matter? • There's no definitive view of this. ______________________________________ Notes: [p. 393-395; notes 1, 2 4 and 6]

The Reasonable person in social context o Should the same standards have applied here? Δs were part of an insular minority that has suffered discrimination. • Statistics - 25%-35% of Indian children are separated from their families by Welfare Services • Usually not because of physical abuse, but because of differing social customs and norms, welfare thinks children are being abandoned (leaving child with person outside nuclear family considered neglect by Welfare, but this is an Indian social norm). • So, parents worries that child might be taken away are reasonable in that culture (also a relative's child was taken away, so mother has first hand experience of this happening)

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