State v. Bridges
133 N.J. 447, 628 A.2d 270 (1993)

  • Bridges got into a fight with Strickland at a party. He left, and recruited up two friends, Bing and Rolle. Bing and Rolle brought some guns with them to keep Strickland’s friends at bay while Bridges beat up Strickland.
  • They returned, Bridges and Strickland started fighting. Someone pinched Bing. Bing and Rolle pulled out their guns and started shooting into the crowd. Someone died.
  • Bridges was arrested and charged with (among other things) murder.
    • Because Bridges was involved in a conspiracy with Bing and Rolle, he was criminally culpable for everything that they did in furtherance of the conspiracy.
      • That’s known as Pinkerton Liability. (See Pinkerton v United States (328 U.S. 640 (1946)).
  • The Trial Court convicted Bridges of first-degree murder and sentenced him to life. He appealed.
  • The Appellate Court overturned the conviction. The prosecutor appealed.
    • The Appellate Court found that the conspiracy was to assault Strickland. The murder was a separate crime that was not in furtherance of the conspiracy (Bridges and Bing didn’t have the same ‘intent and purpose’) and so Bridges was not responsible.
  • The New Jersey Supreme Court reversed and upheld the conviction.
    • The New Jersey Supreme Court found that the standard for Pinkerton Liability was reasonable foreseeability.
      • Bridges knew Bing was bringing a gun. It was reasonably foreseeable that Bing would shoot someone.
  • In a concurrence it was argued that Bridges could not have been convicted of murder because he had no intent. He couldn’t be given a life sentence for negligently failing to foresee that someone might be killed. He couldn’t be convicted as an accomplice. And he couldn’t even be convicted of conspiracy to murder because there was no agreement to murder. So how could he deserve a life sentence for the murder committed?
    • The concurrence suggested that it would more appropriate to convict Bridges of manslaughter.
  • Model Penal Code §2.06(3) rejects the concept of Pinkerton Liability and imposes accomplice liability on conspirators for the substantive crimes of their co-conspirators only when the strict conditions for accomplice liability are met.