State v. Linscott

Supreme Judicial Court of Maine, 1987.

520 A.2d 1067.

Dressler, pp. 859-861


Facts: The defendant and some other people went to rob a coke dealer.  One of the other people brought a gun, and when they busted into the place, the guy shot the coke dealer and killed him.  The defendant didn’t intend to kill anyone, but was found guilty of murder and robbery.  The defendant appealed on the basis that the accomplice liability statute was unconstitutional because it could convict him of murder, which requires the mens rea of intent (purpose) or knowledge, just by showing he was negligent.


Issue: Is the “foreseeable consequence” rule constitutional?


Rule: The accomplice liability statute in Maine allows conviction of accomplices for crimes that were reasonably foreseeable consequences of the crime they actually intended to aid.


Analysis: The court doesn’t see a problem with the current construction of the rule.


Conclusion: The conviction is upheld.


Notes and Questions


1.     So to conflict under the “foreseeable consequence” rule, you must find:

a.      The primary person did the primary crime.

b.     The secondary person helped the primary person commit that crime.

c.     The primary person committed another crime.

d.     That other crime was a “foreseeable consequence” of the primary crime.

2.     It doesn’t matter, because someone’s death is arguably a reasonably foreseeable consequence of any of those encouraged acts.

3.     This isn’t quite right.  Using words to encourage someone to commit a robbery, for example, can’t possibly in itself lead to murder, but the robbery that might ensue might lead to murder.

4.     The Pinkerton doctrine talks about the natural and probable consequences of an agreement, rather than of a crime.  The Pinkerton doctrine seems broader.

5.     I think the death of one of the participants of a staged accident is reasonably foreseeable.  The lawyer also encouraged it.  Sure, I’d say you can convict the lawyer.  This doctrine seems pretty broad.


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