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View Full Version : It's Suicide, No It's Murder, No It's an Accident, No It's Suicide!!



BSea
03-07-2011, 10:26
I don't know if this is true (even though the story says so), and I'd seen this before, but still a good read.

Murder Mystery (true story)

For those who have served on a jury...this one is something to think about. Just when you think you have heard everything!!


Do you like to read a good murder mystery? Not even Law and Order would attempt to capture this mess. This is an unbelievable twist of fate!!!!

At the 1994 annual awards dinner given for Forensic Science, (AAFS) President, Dr. Don Harper Mills astounded his audience with the legal complications of a bizarre death. Here is the story:

On March 23,1994, the medical examiner viewed the body of Ronald Opus and concluded that he died from a shotgun wound to the head. Mr. Opus had jumped from the top of a ten-story building intending to commit suicide. He left a note to the effect indicating his despondency. As he fell past the ninth floor, his life was interrupted by a shotgun blast passing through a window, which killed him instantly.

Neither the shooter nor the deceased was aware that a safety net had been installed just below the eighth floor level to protect some building workers and that Ronald Opus would not have been able to complete his suicide the way he had planned. The room on the ninth floor, where the shotgun blast emanated, was occupied by an elderly man and his wife. They were arguing vigorously and he was threatening her with a shotgun! The man was so upset that when he pulled the trigger, he completely missed his wife, and the pellets went through the window, striking Mr. Opus.

When one intends to kill subject 'A' but kills subject 'B' in the attempt, one is guilty of the murder of subject 'B.' When confronted with the murder charge, the old man and his wife were both adamant, and both said that they thought the shotgun was not loaded. The old man said it was a long-standing habit to threaten his wife with the unloaded shotgun. He had no intention to murder her. Therefore the killing of Mr. Opus appeared to be an accident; that is, assuming the gun had been accidentally loaded.

The continuing investigation turned up a witness who saw the old couple's son loading the shotgun about six weeks prior to the fatal accident. It transpired that the old lady had cut off her son's financial support and the son, knowing the propensity of his father to use the shotgun threateningly, loaded the gun with the expectation that his father would shoot his mother. Since the loader of the gun was aware of this, he was guilty of the murder even though he didn't actually pull the trigger. The case now becomes one of murder on the part of the son for the death of Ronald Opus.

Now comes the exquisite twist....

Further investigation revealed that the son was, in fact, Ronald Opus. He had become increasingly despondent over the failure of his attempt to engineer his mother's murder. This led him to jump off the ten-story building on March 23rd, only to be killed by a shotgun blast passing through the ninth story window.

The son, Ronald Opus, had actually murdered himself. So the medical examiner closed the case as a suicide.

Flatliner
03-07-2011, 10:45
False, (sort of) Dr. Mills did share the story, but it was as a hypothetical exercise. (Snopes.com)

divingmedic
03-07-2011, 13:03
That made my head hurt just thinking about it.

PlatypusMan
03-07-2011, 16:09
The Medical Examiner ruling this a suicide is, frankly, bunk as far as I can see. An ME is there to establish the facts of the person's death and gather evidence from that event. The only thing the ME should be able to establish is that Opus jumped from the top of a building, was shot by a loaded shotgun, and subsequently died from that act or other trauma experienced. The rest of the stuff tossed in there is outside of the ME's responsibility, but IS in the domain of the police/DA's office to uncover during investigation.

Parsing the hypothetical tale based on my understanding of how the law works (in Texas, and IANAL by any means), the old man goes to trial for:

A. Attempted murder of his wife. Whether he knew or did not know the weapon was loaded is immaterial to the fact that his actions could result in her death.

B. Murder of his son. If the Coroner establishes that the shotgun blast killed the son, the father is guilty of murder and will be charged accordingly, based on the precedent that anyone injured during a shooting creates a breach of law by the shooter to the extent of the injury incurred and premeditation established. Think of it this way: if the falling person shot had been anyone other than Opus, would the same condition(s) apply? If not, then the father should still be charged because who the decedent is really does not matter.

PPM

Zeagle Eagle
03-07-2011, 22:42
The Medical Examiner ruling this a suicide is, frankly, bunk as far as I can see. An ME is there to establish the facts of the person's death and gather evidence from that event. The only thing the ME should be able to establish is that Opus jumped from the top of a building, was shot by a loaded shotgun, and subsequently died from that act or other trauma experienced. The rest of the stuff tossed in there is outside of the ME's responsibility, but IS in the domain of the police/DA's office to uncover during investigation.

Parsing the hypothetical tale based on my understanding of how the law works (in Texas, and IANAL by any means), the old man goes to trial for:

A. Attempted murder of his wife. Whether he knew or did not know the weapon was loaded is immaterial to the fact that his actions could result in her death.

B. Murder of his son. If the Coroner establishes that the shotgun blast killed the son, the father is guilty of murder and will be charged accordingly, based on the precedent that anyone injured during a shooting creates a breach of law by the shooter to the extent of the injury incurred and premeditation established. Think of it this way: if the falling person shot had been anyone other than Opus, would the same condition(s) apply? If not, then the father should still be charged because who the decedent is really does not matter.

PPM
The problem with (A.) is he was not attempting to murder his wife. Opus loaded the shotgun. The ME is correct Opus committed suicide. It would be much like having a gun for a doorknob. People go in and out for 20 years and one day someone loads it. The person opening the door is not responsible.

navyhmc
03-07-2011, 22:56
Hate to throw a monkey wrench into the works, but since the elderly man did point the gun at his wife, that is assault with a deadly weapon. Any death resulting while commiting a felony can can result in a charge of felony murder, no matter if the death was intentional or not, so it is indeed murder.

Vercingetorix
03-08-2011, 06:05
False, (sort of) Dr. Mills did share the story, but it was as a hypothetical exercise. (Snopes.com)

Here's the snopes link==>snopes.com: Ronald Opus Suicide (http://www.snopes.com/horrors/freakish/opus.asp)

//when citing Snopes, always provide the link

BSea
03-08-2011, 08:30
Hate to throw a monkey wrench into the works, but since the elderly man did point the gun at his wife, that is assault with a deadly weapon. Any death resulting while commiting a felony can can result in a charge of felony murder, no matter if the death was intentional or not, so it is indeed murder.Is it really a deadly weapon if both parties believe the gun to be unloaded? It would be no different than pointing a broom at her.

fire diver
03-08-2011, 09:22
It is still a deadly weapon, because it could be loaded. A broom cannot shoot somebody, even if you put a trigger on it.

BSea
03-08-2011, 09:58
According to Webster, Assault is the threat or or attempt to inflict bolidy harm on a person that puts that person in immediate danger of or in apprehension of such harm or contact. (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/assault?show=0&t=1299600471)

It could be argued that since both parties believed the gun to be unloaded, there was no real threat or attempt. Especially since this was a regular form of arguing by the couple. Plus, if the wife testified to this, I doubt any jury would be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt.

Don't we have interesting discussions.:smiley29:

EDIT: What about this broom gun?
http://t2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSHr9DjsBNzFLL4og4mhM40koPJGqy--GfYX7Ip8jGlx-F22g9Y0Q

fire diver
03-08-2011, 10:16
What about this broom gun?
http://t2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSHr9DjsBNzFLL4og4mhM40koPJGqy--GfYX7Ip8jGlx-F22g9Y0Q

Oh man! I want a broom gun! I could shoot away those hardened gunk spots!

packjk
03-08-2011, 13:58
lol that is pretty crazy, but no way in hell things could align like that. [the son deserved it though]

Zeagle Eagle
03-08-2011, 17:53
It is still a deadly weapon, because it could be loaded. A broom cannot shoot somebody, even if you put a trigger on it.
No where in the law does it mention loaded or unloaded. It does mention intent. That won't hold up in a court of law.
BTW, many people have been killed with a broom. Does that mean it's a deadly weapon.

The man is innocent and it never happened anyway; but, it's fun to think about.