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What Is Involuntary Manslaughter? - Definition, Examples & Punishment

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  • 0:00 Involuntary…
  • 1:19 Examples of…
  • 2:34 Drug Use & Involuntary…
  • 3:40 Negligence &…
  • 4:55 Punishment for…
  • 6:23 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Janell Blanco
Involuntary manslaughter will be discussed in this lesson. We will talk about different examples of involuntary manslaughter and discuss the types of punishment.

Involuntary Manslaughter Defined

Sami was testifying on her own behalf. She told her lawyer, the prosecutors, the judge, and the jury, 'I didn't mean to do it. I didn't mean to kill him.' What is Sami talking about? Sami is on trial for involuntary manslaughter.

Involuntary manslaughter is defined as the unintentional death of an individual as a result of another person's negligent actions. Basically, what it means is killing someone and not realizing your actions could cause death. 'Unintentional' is the key word for involuntary manslaughter because the person did not mean to kill someone.

Another definition of involuntary manslaughter can be a tricky one. It is best defined as a death occurring while another crime is being committed. Here's an example to clarify this definition: Shawn is robbing a man while he is at the ATM. The victim falls and hits his head on the ground and passes away from head trauma. The crime being committed is robbery, and the man's death is a result of the robbery. Shawn would be charged with involuntary manslaughter.

Now that we know what involuntary manslaughter is, we can discuss examples.

Examples of Involuntary Manslaughter

In the opening example, Sami is on trial for involuntary manslaughter. She was texting on her phone while she was driving and started to go off the road. Sami, still looking at her text messages, overcorrected her car and hit a car in oncoming traffic. The driver of the other vehicle passed away as a result of Sami's actions. Sami was charged with involuntary manslaughter because her actions of texting caused her to strike another vehicle, which resulted in the death of another individual.

Involuntary manslaughter, in Sami's example, was caused by two factors. The first being she was texting and distracted, and the second factor occurred when the driver of the vehicle she crashed into passed away. Do you think a person can be found guilty of involuntary manslaughter for simply hitting someone?

The answer is yes. In Detriot, Bassel Saad punched a referee during a soccer game, and the referee died as a result of the punch. Saad plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter because his action of hitting the referee resulted in a death. Can you think of any cases that were highly publicized that involved involuntary manslaughter?

Drug Use and Involuntary Manslaughter

What about the name Michael Jackson? Yes, Michael Jackson, the notorious pop singer. Jackson's doctor, Dr. Conrad Murray, was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in 2011. The dose of the drug propofol that Dr. Murray gave to Jackson caused his death. Dr. Murray administered the drug but did not realize his actions would result in the death of the singer. During the trial, the prosecution argued that it was Dr. Murray's reckless treatment of Jackson that ultimately led to his death.

Involuntary manslaughter can occur in several different situations involving drugs. A mother in South Carolina was taking narcotics. The mother then breastfed her child while on narcotics, and the infant passed away as a result of a drug overdose. The drugs passed from the mother to the child through the breast milk. The mother, Stephanie Greene, was convicted in April of 2014 for involuntary manslaughter.

We will discuss just a few more examples, and then talk about punishment.

Negligence and Involuntary Manslaughter

There have been cases when a firearm has discharged and resulted in the death of another person. The person handling the gun could have thought there were no bullets in it. The gun owner may not have stored the gun properly, or the gun safety was not on and discharged.

Another example of negligence is not calling for help when a person is injured or hurt. Imagine your friend or family member fell in your bathroom and hit their head. They need immediate medical attention, so you pick up the phone and call 9-1-1. The police and medical personnel arrive and help your family member or friend and take them to the hospital. In this instance, you were not negligent because you called 9-1-1 and let the proper officials in. You could be negligent and charged with involuntary manslaughter if your friend or family member bled to death in your bathroom, and you did not call 9-1-1, or someone else called 9-1-1, and you lied and said there was nothing wrong and no one was injured.

You have probably noticed that involuntary manslaughter can occur in just about any type of situation. The examples would be endless, so let's move on to punishment after being convicted of involuntary manslaughter.

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