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post #701 of 790 Old 01-09-2019
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Re: Suicide at Sea and captain charged

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post #702 of 790 Old 01-09-2019
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Re: Suicide at Sea and captain charged

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Generally the prosecution can't appeal a criminal acquittal or dismissal especially after trial has begun, it's the double-jeopardy clause in the Constitution we thank for that.....
The defendant was certainly in jeopardy, which would suggest it's done. The interesting twist is that the judge found that the statute didn't apply to the non-commercial operation. Perhaps the Prosecution was that stupid, but what if this is grey. The defendant didn't win on his merits, the charges were dismissed because of this interpretation. Can that interpretation be appealed?


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post #703 of 790 Old 01-09-2019
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Re: Suicide at Sea and captain charged

In this case that raises a very interesting and unusual question. Ordinarily a judge's decision dismissing a case prior to trial can be appealed by the prosecution. If the dismissal is reversed on appeal, the case can be remanded to the trial court and a trial held.

In a criminal case, jeopardy attaches during a jury trial when the jury is sworn. In criminal cases tried by a judge without a jury, also called a bench trial, jeopardy attaches when the first witness is sworn. Thus, if the court had ruled on the defendant's motion before the trial began, the prosecutor could have appealed an adverse ruling. But, since the motion was filed after the trial had begun, and after jeopardy attached, the prosecutor can't appeal the decision.

I retired about 18 years ago, and that's the way I remember it, but I'm open to having my memory refreshed.

The question in my mind is, did the defense brilliantly plan it that way, or did he do it that way by pure dumb luck? It cost the client more in legal fees, but when the case was dismissed, the case was over, once and for all. No appeals, even if the judge's decision was clearly erroneous.
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post #704 of 790 Old 01-09-2019
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Re: Suicide at Sea and captain charged

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The defendant was certainly in jeopardy, which would suggest it's done. The interesting twist is that the judge found that the statute didn't apply to the non-commercial operation. Perhaps the Prosecution was that stupid, but what if this is grey. The defendant didn't win on his merits, the charges were dismissed because of this interpretation. Can that interpretation be appealed?
Would you like to see it appealed?
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post #705 of 790 Old 01-09-2019
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Re: Suicide at Sea and captain charged

I'm not a lawyer, so this is a question, not an opinion...

What's the basis of the judge's decision to dismiss; i.e.,why is the application of the statute limited to commercial vessels?
Being a non lawyer I would think the possibilities are the language of the statute, regulation based on the statute, case law involving the statute, or the judge's untethered (not a legal term...) decision.

It's clearly not the statutory language:
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18 U.S. Code 1115 - Misconduct or neglect of ship officers

Every captain, engineer, pilot, or other person employed on any steamboat or vessel, by whose misconduct, negligence, or inattention to his duties on such vessel the life of any person is destroyed, and every owner, charterer, inspector, or other public officer, through whose fraud, neglect, connivance, misconduct, or violation of law the life of any person is destroyed, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.
When the owner or charterer of any steamboat or vessel is a corporation, any executive officer of such corporation, for the time being actually charged with the control and management of the operation, equipment, or navigation of such steamboat or vessel, who has knowingly and willfully caused or allowed such fraud, neglect, connivance, misconduct, or violation of law, by which the life of any person is destroyed, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.
"Any vessel", without subsequent identified exceptions, seems pretty inclusive to me. So what's the basis of the judge's decision?
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post #706 of 790 Old 01-09-2019
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Re: Suicide at Sea and captain charged

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Would you like to see it appealed?
I have no dog in that hunt. I've been interested in the merits of the law and the discussion on right from wrong, given reported circumstances. At the least, there was also some reflection on how one may stay below the radar, which clearly includes making some effort to recover a MOB.


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post #707 of 790 Old 01-09-2019
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Re: Suicide at Sea and captain charged

This is GREAT NEWS for all us recreational boaters. It adds a second case of precedent that this statute relates only to Commercial operations.

Im not against having a manslaughter statute, but it should be one that is consistent with all other manslaughter statutes, not some extremely low and ill defined meaning.

The commercial application should also be rewritten. But the commercial operators have the buck to right this, not so much we recreational guys.

While I think the Capt made mistakes I think there were strong mitigating circumstances. I know others disagree.

An adage I came up with during my divorce hearings, which I believe applies here is:
You may go to court expecting justice, what you will get is a decision.
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post #708 of 790 Old 01-09-2019
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Re: Suicide at Sea and captain charged

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I'm not a lawyer, so this is a question, not an opinion...

What's the basis of the judge's decision to dismiss; i.e.,why is the application of the statute limited to commercial vessels?
The only way to answer that question is to read the court's decision. I doubt that it's published unless a news reporter published it.
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Re: Suicide at Sea and captain charged

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I have no dog in that hunt. I've been interested in the merits of the law and the discussion on right from wrong, given reported circumstances. At the least, there was also some reflection on how one may stay below the radar, which clearly includes making some effort to recover a MOB.
The thing that makes this case different from the ordinary MOB situation is that, here, the MOB tried to kill the captain before he jumped in the water.

This is a case of damned if you do - damned if you don't.

When the captain didn't go back, he got prosecuted for Seaman's Manslaughter. If he had gone back and tossed him a life ring, but not brought him on board, he'd have been accused of torturing him and, if he died, murdering him by hypothermia. If he waited until he thought Pontious was weakened, and then brought him aboard, maybe Pontious was weak, and maybe he was playing possum. In short, there was no safe, clear, morally and legally acceptable course for the captain to follow to deal with the situation. He had to ad lib a solution. Every law should be crafted so that it doesn't put people who are subject to the law on the horns of a dilemma.
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post #710 of 790 Old 01-09-2019
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Re: Suicide at Sea and captain charged

If that is the logic, I agree. But it seems he got off on a technicality.

Anyone else think it's weird that you could leave a guy to drown and as long as it is not a commercial vessel, you get off scot free?? Legally. how does that ever make sense? Shouldn't it be manslaughter?

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Last edited by Sal Paradise; 01-09-2019 at 07:31 PM.
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