People v. Arzon
92 Misc.2d 739, 401 N.Y.S.2d 156 (1978)

  • Arzon intentionally set his apartment on fire. The firemen arrived to put it out.
  • Coincidentally, at the exact same time, an arsonist was setting the building on fire. Some of the firemen who came to put out Arzon’s fire had their escape route cut off and died.
    • Arzon had absolutely nothing to do with the second fire.
  • Arzon was arrested and charged with murder.
    • Specifically, Arzon was charged with, “under circumstances envincing a depraved indifference to human life, recklessly engaging in conduct with created a grave risk of death to another person.”
  • Arzon made a motion to dismiss the murder charge.
    • Arzon argued that there was no causal link between his fire and the deaths.
  • The Trial Court denied the motion to dismiss.
    • The Trial Court found that the defendant’s conduct need not be the sole and exclusive factor in the victim’s death. An individual is criminally liable if his conduct was a sufficiently direct cause of death, and the ultimate harm was something that should have been foreseen as being reasonably related to his acts.
      • In this case it was foreseeable that the firemen would try to put out the fire, and it was foreseeable that they would be in danger.
      • In addition, even if Arzon’s fire wasn’t the direct cause of the firemen’s deaths, it contributed to their deaths by making them “particularly vulnerable to a separate and independent force.”