Excusable Homicide – homicide by accident or self-defense

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excusable homicide:

1. Homicide resulting from a person’s lawful act, committed without intention to harm another.

2  The killing of another in self-defense when faced with the danger of death or serious bodily injury. — aka justifiable homicide. [1]

1. A homicide committed in the course of performing a lawful act, without any intention to hurt (for EXAMPLE, by accident) or committed in self-defense. [3]

homicide by misadventure (17c) Homicide resulting form a lawful act performed in a lawful manner under a reasonable belief that no harm could occur. – aka death by misadventure; accidental killing; killing by misadventure; homicide per infortunium.
     See involuntary manslaughter. [1] 

1. An accidental killing of a human being. 26 Am J1st Homi § 220

A killing by pure accident, that is, where a man, doing a lawful act, without any intention of hurt, unfortunately kills another; as where a man is at work with a hatchet, and the head of it flies off and kills a by-stander.  See 4 Bl Comm 182. — aka homicide per infortunium. [2]

1. A killing by pure accident, without any intention to harm, while doing a lawful act.  EXAMPLE: while Thomas is chopping wood, the head flies off his axe and fatally injures a bystander. [3]

homicidium ex casu – Homicide by accident.

homicide per infortunium [Latin “homicide by misfortune”] (1856) The unintentional killing of another while engaged in a lawful act; ACCIDENTAL KILLING. [1]

per infortunium –  adj. or adv. [Latin] (17c) By misadventure.  *  At common law, when one person killed another per infortunium, a conviction and royal pardon were necessary even when there was no fault. 

    Excerpt from J.W. Cecil Turner’s Kenny’s Outlines of Criminal Law (16th ed. 1952):

     “It may seem strange to modern minds that for centuries it was a rule of our law that a man who killed another either by misadventure (per infortunium) or in reasonable self defence (against an attack not itself felonious), although he did not commit a felony, must yet be held guilty of unlawful homicide and require the King’s pardon if he were to escape punishment, and even if granted pardon would still be liable to suffer forfeiture of his property; and that he was exposed to claims for compensation from the family of the deceased. [4]


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[1]: Black’s Law Dictionary Deluxe Tenth Edition by Henry Campbell Black & Editor in Chief Bryan A. Garner. ISBN: 978-0-314-62130-6

[2]: Ballantine’s Law Dictionary with Pronunciations
Third Edition
 by James A. Ballantine (James Arthur 1871-1949).  Edited by William S. Anderson.  © 1969 by THE LAWYER’S CO-OPERATIVE PUBLISHING COMPANY.  Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 68-30931

[3]:  Ballantine’s Law Dictionary Legal Assistant Edition
by Jack Ballantine 
(James Arthur 1871-1949).  Doctored by Jack G. Handler, J.D. © 1994 Delmar by Thomson Learning.  ISBN 0-8273-4874-6.

[4]: J.W. Cecil Turner, Kenny’s Outlines of Criminal Law 113 (16th ed. 1952).


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