Rethinking Criminal Law

By George P. Fletcher | Go to book overview

Chapter Four
Homicide:Three
Lines of Liability

§4.1. Toward a Third Pattem of Liability.

As the first two patterns of liability crystallized in a detailed study of larceny, the third pattern will emerge from the details of the law of homicide. For the present, however, we shall stress the uniqueness of homicide as a crime and then, in the next chapter, move beyond homicide to a general pattern of harmful consequences, including arson, battery, and other crimes requiring concrete injuries to persons and property. What all these offenses have in common is that the starting point for analyzing liability is not an act manifesting danger, not an intent to harm, but the occurrence of the harm itself; once the harm is established, the inquiry centers on attributing that harm to particular actors and assessing whether they are accountable for bringing it about.

What makes homicide unique is, among other things, the uniqueness of causing death. While all personal injuries and destruction of property are irreversible harms, causing death is a harm of a different order. Killing another human being is not only a worldly deprivation; in the Western conception of homicide, kill-

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