State v. McVay
47 R.I. 292, 132 A. 436 (1926)

  • After it was run in an unsafe manner, the boiler on a ship called the Mackinac exploded killing a number of people.
  • The captain of the ship, McVay and the chief engineer, Grant, were arrested and charged with involuntary manslaughter.
    • McVay and Grant were acting under the encouragement of a guy named Kelley. Kelley was the one who advised the crew that the boiler should be run unsafely.
  • The Trial Court convicted Kelley of involuntary manslaughter. He appealed.
    • Kelley argued that involuntary manslaughter was a crime of negligence, not intent. Kelley argued that you could not be an accessory before the fact to a crime that did not require intent.
  • The Appellate Court upheld the conviction.
    • The Appellate Court found that negligence can have premeditation as an element. Even though the boiler explosion was unintentional, it was the reasonably foreseeable result of intentional actions on the part of the crew.
      • Kelley encouraged the crew to be negligent, and when they intentionally followed his advice, people died.
  • Conversely, if someone killed a person in a burst of rage, then it would be difficult to find accomplice liability because those sorts of crimes have no premeditation, so there really isn’t a way to encourage them.