What kind of defenses might a defense attorney us to defend the clients in the following scenario?
An elderly woman resisted a purse snatching near her home and was knocked to the pavement. The two purse snatchers escaped with $15 in the purse. The woman was taken to a hospital where surgery was performed after a blood clot developed. The woman lapsed into a coma within hours of the purse snatching and died six weeks later.
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The main focus of a defense that could be mounted for these individuals would have to be on predicated on the lack of motive--that is, there was no intent on the part of the individuals to inflict serious injuries on the victim, and certainly not death.
The problem with such a defense, however, is that the theft involved an assault. Pushing an elderly woman to the ground so that a crime could be successfully perpetrated will likely be considered aggravated assault, given the woman's age and the defendants disregard for an injury even simple assault could cause, which probably rules out a charge of involuntary manslaughter.
Depending on the prosecutor, a charge of third degree murder is not out of the question, as the jury will be very sympathetic. I could probably avoid conviction based on the lack of intent, but all the prosecutor has to do is establish that the defendants committed the robbery and assault, and they would likely get a conviction on any charge lesser than murder.
Some might be tempted to highlight that the woman resisted the theft, but try selling that one to a jury and you'll be in trouble. I think the best chance for an acquittal would be to raise reasonable doubt that the defendants were at the scene at all.
Given the facts, a defense attorney would have a difficult time defending on the strength of the law itself. Hopefully, he could argue there was some intervening cause that led to the lady's death other than being pushed to the ground. Her age, health, proclivity to blood clots, etc. might be argued. Such being the case, he could only hope that they be found guilty of a lesser included offense, such as involuntary manslaughter, or even assault and battery. Otherwise, his only hope is to argue the facts, mistaken identity, lack of mental capacity, etc. That would be thin, of course. Unless he can show some intervening cause, his best bet would be to work out a plea bargain, if at all possible.
The defendants will need separate lawyers. Lawyer needs to plead his guy out first and agree to testify against the other guy on felony murder before that lawyer does the same. Plead to something like harassment and possession of stolen property for time served. Then on the stand throw everything on the other guy and how you tried to stop him. He gets the needle and you walk.
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