Bailey v. Commonwealth

Supreme Court of Virginia, 1985.

229 Va. 258, 329 S.E.2d 37.

Dressler, pp. 875-879


Facts: Bailey and Murdock were having a sort of feud.  Bailey tricked Murdock into waiting on his front porch with a gun, and then Bailey called the cops and told them there was a dangerous armed person at Murdock’s address.  When the cops arrived, Murdock fired the gun at the cops, and then the cops opened fire and killed Murdock.  Bailey was tried and convicted of involuntary manslaughter.  He appealed on the basis that he was not a principal in the first degree, a principal in the second degree, or an accessory before the fact, and thus cannot be held liable.  The Attorney General said that Bailey was a principal in the first degree.


Issue: Must Bailey have shared a goal with the police officers in order to be a principal in the first degree?


Rule: “[O]ne who effects a criminal act through an innocent or unwitting agent is a principal in the first degree.”


Analysis: The court says that the police officers can be interpreted as Bailey’s unwitting agents.  The jury found that the consequences of Bailey’s actions could reasonably be foreseen.  Thus, Murdock’s death wasn’t the result of a superceding cause.


Conclusion: I dunno.


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