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Involuntary Manslaughter Conviction for Fatal Asthma Attack

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Involuntary Manslaughter and Gun Charges

Early this month, a Boston man was convicted for involuntary manslaughter for the death of a victim who died from a fatal asthma attack, wbur.com reports. In January of 2012, Michael Stallings, 26 years old, instigated a shooting on a group of men, allegedly as an act of gang violence. While not a single bullet hit any of the men, the incident triggered an asthma attack in one of the men, Kelvin Rowell, age 40, as Rowell was fleeing from the perceived danger of the shots fired. Rowell was a bystander and not part of the alleged gang quarrel. Rowell was taken to the hospital where he stayed for over a month before he ultimately fell into a coma and died.

After the medical examiner determined that Rowell’s death was a homicide, Stallings was charged with first-degree murder, since it was the gun fire that allegedly caused Rowell’s fatal asthma attack. Stallings was also charged with unlawful possession of a firearm and armed assault with intent to murder. Stallings was convicted of the unlawful possession charge but not for the armed assault with intent to murder charges, and the first degree murder charge was reduced to involuntary manslaughter.

The Suffolk County Superior Court jury decided that while Rowell’s death was not caused by one of the bullets fired by Stallings, Rowell’s death was a byproduct of the shooting and Stallings is clearly responsible for that. As such, the jury found that Stallings should be held responsible for the unlawful killing even if it was unintentional.

Appealing the Involuntary Manslaughter Conviction

The case is presently being appealed. One glaringly unusual fact in this case is that Rowell died more than a month after the shooting took place. A conviction for involuntary manslaughter requires three elements:

  1. The defendant must kill the victim unlawfully, meaning there was no excuse for the defendant’s conduct, but unintentionally, meaning that the defendant intended to commit the act that caused the death, but didn’t intend to kill the victim.
    • There may not be an excuse for why Stallings shot into a group of men, and it seems that from the facts of the case Stallings meant to shoot into the group, but since he did not hit anyone, perhaps his actions were only meant to scare the group of men.
  2. The defendant’s conduct must be wanton or reckless, meaning that the defendant did not care if harm would result from his or her actions.
    • Here, it seems reasonable that a person who has been shot at would react because they are afraid that they will be harmed.
  3. The victim’s death must be the result of the wanton or reckless conduct, meaning if the defendant had not acted as he or she did, the victim would not have died.
    • This element is where the case against Stallings is weakest because Rowell did not die immediately after the shooting, but more than a month later. There may be medical evidence that shows that Rowell was struggling that entire time with his terrible asthma attack, but that seems unlikely. Many intervening things could have happened during that time that contributed or even caused Rowell’s death.

When You Need A Criminal Defense Lawyer

Facing manslaughter or murder charges is tough, especially if the death was an unintentional one. If you are facing these types of charges, you need a criminal lawyer who knows the criminal legal system inside and out.