Criminal Law, Pages 211–215

Oxendine v. State

Supreme Court of Delaware, 1987

Facts:

Defendant's girlfriend pushed his six-year-old son into the bathtub, causing microscopic tears in his intestines. The next day, defendant beat his son for 5–10 minutes for not getting out of bed. Later that day, the boy's abdomen had become swollen, and he asked to be taken to the hospital. Defendant refused, but his girlfriend took him. However, he died on the way due to the first set of injuries. It was possible that defendant's beating accelerated his death however.

Procedural History:

Both defendant and his girlfriend were convicted of manslaughter.

Issue:

Was defendant the cause of his son's death?

Rule:

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"Contribution [or aggravation] without acceleration is insufficient to establish causation."

Reasoning:

The evidence may establish that defendant aggravated his son's injuries and made his final moments more painful, but no testimony establishes that it actually accelerated his death. However, it evidence was sufficient for a rational trier of fact to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant was guilty of assault in the second degree, so he should be convicted of that.

Holding:

No, the evidence does not establish that defendant hastened his son's death. Denial of motion for a judgment of acquittal affirmed, but conviction changed to to assault in the second degree. Remanded for conviction and resentencing therefor.

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