LE Challenge: Murder or suicide mystery...you decide

Discussion in 'The Powder Keg' started by Oxford, May 6, 2002.

  1. Oxford

    Oxford G&G Evangelist

    At the 1994 annual awards dinner given for Forensic Science, AAFS president
    Dr. Don Harper Mills astounded his audience with the legal complications of a
    bizarre death. Here is the story:

    On March 23, 1994, the medical examiner viewed the body of Ronald Opus
    and concluded that he died from a shotgun wound to the head. The decedent had
    jumped from the top of a ten-story building intending to commit suicide.

    He left a note to that effect indicating his despondency. As he fell past the ninth
    floor, his life was interrupted by a shotgun last passing through a window, which
    killed him instantly. Neither the shooter nor the decedent was aware that a safety
    net had been installed just below at the eighth floor level to protect some building
    workers and that Ronald Opus would not have been able to complete his suicide
    the way he had planned.

    Ordinarily, Dr. Mills continued, "a person who sets out to commit suicide and ultimately
    succeeds, even though the mechanism might not be what he intended" is still defined as
    committing suicide. Mr. Opus was shot on the way to certain death nine stories below
    at street level, but his suicide attempt probably would not have been successful because
    of the safety net. This caused the medical examiner to feel that he had a homicide on his

    The room on the ninth floor from whence the shotgun blast emanated was occupied by
    an elderly man and his wife. They were arguing vigorously, and he was threatening her
    with a shotgun. The man was so upset that when he pulled the trigger he completely
    missed his wife and the pellets went through the window striking Mr. Opus.

    When one intends to kill subject A, but kills subject B in the attempt, one is guilty of the
    murder of subject B. When confronted with the murder charge, the old man and his wife
    were both adamant. They both said they thought the shotgun was unloaded. The old man
    said it was his long standing habit to threaten his wife with the unloaded shotgun. He had
    no intention to murder her. Therefore the killing of Mr. Opus appeared to be an accident,
    that is, the gun had been accidentally loaded.

    The continuing investigation turned up a witness who saw the old couple's son loading the
    shotgun about six weeks prior to the fatal accident. It transpired that the old lady had cut
    off her son's financial support and the son, knowing the propensity of his father to use
    the shotgun threateningly, loaded the gun with the expectation that his father would shoot
    his mother.

    The case now becomes one of murder on the part of the son for the death of Ronald Opus.
    Now comes the exquisite twist. Further investigation revealed that the son was in fact
    Ronald Opus. He had become increasingly despondent over both the loss of his financial
    support and the failure of his attempt to engineer his mother's murder. This led him to jump
    off the ten-story building on March 23rd, only to be killed by a shotgun blast passing
    through the ninth-story window. The son had actually murdered himself, so the medical
    examiner closed the case as a suicide.

    You decide...what's you verdict. Please post.

    Oxford ;)
  2. Dan R.

    Dan R. Guest

    I would have to go with the M.E. on this one, Ronald Opus got just what he deserved.

  3. Big Dog

    Big Dog Retired IT Dinosaur Wrangler Forum Contributor

    This would have made a perfect Columbo episode!

    SPOCAHP ANAR G&G Enthusiast


    I dismissed this case due to the lack of evidence as the testimony of Ronald Opus is needed to support this fact. I however order the DA to file charges of stupidity on victim Ron Opus.

    Court Adjourned
  5. Klaus

    Klaus Guest

    I had posted a reply here, but it seems to have vanished.
  6. ???

    Wasn't that an episode of Itchy and Scratchy???

    Definately should be a Darwin Award candidate....

    Wow! At first I had no idea how I would rule. However, Mr Opus wanted to do himself in he succeded.

    The fact that the jumper was the son of the Old man, you cannot possibly charge a dead man for conspiracy or a charge stemmed from him loading the shotgun with the intent that Dad would cap Mom. So, I too would go with the ME on this one.
  7. This was an episode on "Homicide: Life on the Street" in onw of the later seasons when the good-looking chick played the ME.

    Helluva lot better show than Columbo.
  8. From the standpoint of Arizona law, a Coroner cannot conclude a legal issue but merely present his/her finding to the County Attorney for disposition, here is my thoughts (again from Arizona law).

    First, the father would be charged with a minimum of Reckless Endangerment (repeated threats although he never loaded the chamber), Attempted Assault and Attempted Murder (to whatever degree) on his wife and Murder on his son* (see remark following).

    The living son, if caught by the safety net, Reckless Endangerment (to any passerby below if the net was not there...since he assumed nothing would prevent his fall to the pavement below).

    * = law provides that an act precludes any intentions of the victim IF there is not a case of self defense, or flight to protecting one self. Therefore, the act was a gun shot to the victim...not ultimately his own death at his means. It's like if you are in a parking lot and shoot at someone only to strike a person behind them who was intending to run out into traffic to kill himself. Your shot was what actually created the death.

    There ya go.....now, blast me but as I said the Coroner, nor the cops on the scene, will determine what charges but if I know Rick Romley here you might expect this decision.

    Each state might have it's own laws and judicial enforcement and not what Hollywood might portray.

    Last edited: May 7, 2002
  9. BenP

    BenP Guest

    I'm with Dale on this one. It doesn't matter the intent or the prior knowledge of the father. He pulled the trigger and committed the action. He'd at least get voluntary manslaughter.

    Let's not forget unlawful discharge of a firearm if he hadn't hit his kid.
  10. jerry

    jerry Since 03-15- 2002 Forum Contributor

    it is only hearsay about the wintess, ther is no proof he loaded the gun since the father allways threatened the mother with the shotgun it was assumed that eventually the shotgun would be loaded.
  11. Calvin

    Calvin G&G Evangelist

    I would have to say that since no one else, besides the deceased, was hurt, chalk it up to a freak accident. I would not prosecute, and how would anyone know that the safety net would've foiled the suicide attempt? Last weekend, a lady jumped from a 14th story window to commit suicide. She landed on a Honda CRV, butt-first, and walked away. If you look at the probaility of this happening, it runs parallel with a man jumping and having his head blown off on the way down to commit suicide.