Sunday, November 17, 2013

Commonwealth v. Levesque case brief

Commonwealth v. Levesque case brief summary
436 Mass. 443 (2001)

A grand jury returned six indictments against each defendant for involuntary manslaughter based on defendants' conduct in starting by accident and then failing to report a fire in a warehouse, which took the lives of six fire fighters. The Commonwealth appealed the judgment of the Superior Court Department (Massachusetts) which dismissed the indictments based on insufficient evidence.

Defendants had been residing in an abandoned warehouse. The evidence indicated they accidentally started a fire. As the fire quickly increased in size, they abandoned their pets and left the warehouse. Despite the fact that they had a cell phone and passed by several pay phones, they failed to notify anyone of the fire. As a result of their failure to notify the authorities, the fire became much more dangerous and six firefighters were killed.


  • The supreme court held that where a defendant's failure to exercise reasonable care to prevent the risk he created was reckless and resulted in death, the defendant could be convicted of involuntary manslaughter. 
  • The Commonwealth presented sufficient evidence to allow a grand jury to conclude that defendants' choice not to report the fire was intentional and reckless. 
  • There was no possibility that the grand jurors were confused as to the Commonwealth's theory of manslaughter. 
  • Defendants were charged with involuntary manslaughter based on their neglect of a duty to report the fire.

The decision of the trial court was reversed.

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