Philosophy of Law
Did David Cash Have a Duty to Rescue?
"How much am I supposed to-to sit down and cry about this? I mean... let's be reasonable here. Is my life supposed to halt for-like, for days, weeks and months on end? The simple fact remains, I do not know this little girl. I do not know starving children in Panama."
When asked if the murder was on his conscience during a national television broadcast, Cash responded, "No, not to the extent that most people would want it to be." Cash's lack of remorse fueled the controversy surrounding his actions. Surely, any decent human being would stop the molestation and murder of a little girl if it were easily within their power.
What would you do in this case? Whose side are you on? David Cash's or the side of those who maintain that what Cash did was not a crime, and that even if he had witnessed the entire assault and murder, he could not have been charged. Recall the bystanders in the Kitty Genovese assault and murder, the bystanders in the bar of the tavern in New Bedford, Massachusetts which served as a model for the film, The Accused, and the photographers who continued to take pictures rather than call for help at the scene of Princess Diana's car crash in Paris. Is there anything, anything at all in previous "duty to rescue" cases that provide a handle on this case here, that offers a "way" to show that Cash has some criminal responsibility here, a legal duty of some sort that he breached? What is the best argument one might make against Cash and what is his best defense?
Then, whether your arguments are likely to carry the day or not, imagine that the Nevada legislature has decided to adopt a duty to rescue law, an "Iverson" law, as the media are now calling it. A special hearing has been scheduled to which you have been invited to give expert testimony for or against the adoption of this new law. Someone in the Nevada Legislature learned recently that you are a student at Brandeis. "A great university," this Nevada representative was rumored to have said. Rumor also has it that you are taking a class in Philosophy of Law with a Professor Teuber where you had discussed this very case as well as many others.
Obviously, there are many considerations that go into the drafting of a law and you are not expected to resolve all the minute particulars of wording, merely to weigh in on one side or the other, to say whether you think it is a good or bad thing to have such a law and to say, as best as you can, why you think the way you do as well as how you might repsond to someone on the other side who was, let's say, especially adept at making good arguments. Vermont has enacted a Duty to Rescue Statute. VT. STAT. ANN, 12, 519 (1972), and Minnesota has adopted a similar provision, MINN. STAT. ANN. 604.05(1) (1984), as a part of its criminal code:
Any person at the scene of an emergency who knows that another person is exposed to or has suffered grave physical harm shall, to the extent that he can do so without danger or peril to himself or others, give reasonable assistance to the exposed person. Reasonable assistance may include obtaining or attempting to obtain aid from law enforcement or medical personnel.
Will you urge Nevada to pass legislation similar to Vermont's and Minnesota's? Why?
If not, why not?
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Elton John's Tribute to Diana, adapted from "Candle in the Wind"
"Ode to Diana, Lyrics by Bernie Taupin and Elton John