State v. Foster

Supreme Court of Connecticut, 1987.

202 Conn. 520, 522 A.2d 277.

Dressler, pp. 854-858


Facts: The defendant recruited someone to go after a guy that he thought raped his girlfriend.  They found someone who they thought matched the description, and they started to beat him up.  The defendant wanted to go get his girlfriend to have her check if it was the right guy, but he didn’t want the supposed rapist to get away, so he gave his friend a knife.  While the defendant was gone, the supposed rapist charged at the defendant’s friend, who stabbed the supposed rapist and killed him.  The defendant was convicted of kidnapping, assault, and accessory to criminally negligent homicide.  The defendant appealed on the basis that being an accessory to criminally negligent homicide is legally impossible because you can’t intend for something to happen unintentionally (negligently).


Issue: Must the defendant act with “intent” in order to be convicted of accessory to criminally negligent homicide under the rule of “dual intent”?


Rule: Accessorial liability for criminally negligent homicide requires the same level of culpability as the underlying offense, that is, negligence.


Analysis: Even though you can’t attempt or conspire to commit an offense that doesn’t require intent, you can be an accessory to such an offense.  The court says that the statute that establishes accessorial liability in Connecticut is not limited to “purposeful” or “knowing” crimes, but also “reckless” or “negligent” crimes.  To be found guilty as an accessory to a crime, you must have intentionally assisted while having the level of culpability as to the underlying crime that is required by that crime.


Conclusion: The conviction is upheld.


Notes and Questions


1.     The statutes in New Hampshire might actually be different in substance from the ones in Connecticut.  On the other hand, this court might be confusing two possible meanings of “intentional”: “voluntary” and “purposeful or knowing”.


A.   Alice intentionally solicits the behavior that leads to the death of Carl.  If Alice herself was criminally negligent, then she may be found guilty.

B.    Alice never asked Bob to run red lights.  Maybe she would not be found guilty.


Back to Casebook Notes