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Fitzgerald v. State

20 So. 966 (1896)

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Fitzgerald v. State

Alabama Supreme Court

20 So. 966 (1896)

Facts

William Case entered a bar and commented on two pistols on the wall behind the bartender. The bartender, John Fitzgerald (defendant), took one of the pistols down, and the weapon discharged, killing Case. Evidence suggested that Fitzgerald might have been jealous of a woman’s interest in Case. Fitzgerald was criminally charged with (1) first-degree murder on a theory that he intentionally shot Case and (2) involuntary manslaughter on a theory that he was deliberately and illegally aiming the pistol at Case when the weapon accidentally discharged. Fitzgerald claimed that he and Case were good friends. Fitzgerald said that he was handing the pistol to Case when, without Fitzgerald touching the trigger, the pistol accidentally discharged. In addition to instructing the jury about the elements of first-degree murder, the trial court told the jury that it could find Fitzgerald guilty of involuntary manslaughter if Fitzgerald performed (1) an unlawful act that unintentionally killed Case or (2) a lawful act performed in a careless or negligent way that killed Case. The jury convicted Fitzgerald of involuntary manslaughter. On appeal, Fitzgerald argued that it was error for the court to instruct the jury that he could be found guilty of involuntary manslaughter for committing a merely negligent or careless act.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (McClellan, J.)

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