Before discussing the guilt of Lanning, it is worth analyzing his motives to injure Ballamo if they existed. According to the witnesses claim, Ballamo and Lanning were drinking in the bar without visible fights and confrontation before the accident happened though it is impossible to prove that they had no conflicts at all. As follows from the main version, the conflict emerged on the parking lot, which means that Lanning had no motives to murder Ballamo. This situation is suspicious because the fight would not begin without a trigger though there is nothing said about it in the case. Thus, on the one hand, no perceivable signs of confrontation before the fight were evident. On the other hand, prosecution may claim that people who were spending long time peacefully with each other would not start a fight spontaneously for nothing. However, the last version cannot be checked that is why it will not be considered an argument against the defense.
The witnesses confirm that Ballamo who was still drunk started confrontation, whereas Lanning was sober. Ballamo made Lanning get out of his car and was standing without a shirt, which witnesses absence of self-control, consciousness and coordination. Though Lanning was sober and had no motive to injure or murder Ballamo before the conflict on the parking lot, he got out of his car to resist Ballamo. Nothing is said about the condition and behavior of Lanning before he got into a car as if he was invisible for witnesses. It may be the sign of calmness sobriety as he would be noticed by someone in case he was loud and drunk.
The following elements of adequate provocation should be viewed: 1) conduct; 2) it is sufficient to excite an intense passion; 3) its causes; 4) a reasonable person to lose control. Ballamo was standing on the parking lot without a shirt and eventually made Lanning approach him. However, it is difficult to decide if Lanning has really lost control: according to the main version, Lanning punched Ballamo once on the side of the head or cheek. Such a behavior does not witness excessive aggression or attempt to injure; nevertheless, Lanning could recognize that Ballamo was very drunk. It allows assuming that Lanning was adequate before the accident in the parking lot, and it is common knowledge that it it difficult to make adequate person standing against the drunk one. The prosecution may claim that this case does not satisfy an intense passion; therefore, adequate provocation is inappropriate.
Lannings conduct may be classified as negligent manslaughter. The following elements of negligent manslaughter should be considered regarding the case: 1) causes the death of another person; 2) commits an act; 3) he or she is unaware; 4) creates a high degree of risk of human injury or death; 5) under circumstances, in which a reasonable person would have been aware of the threat. However, not all the elements of the negligent manslaughter are satisfied: the defendant may claim that it is impossible to check if Lannings punch has led to death of Ballamo. It is known that Lannings punch caused a fall, but it is unknown that this fall has caused death. The second element is satisfied as Lanning has committed an act his punch made Ballamo fall down.
The questions arise in regard to the third element: Lanning recognized that he was punching Ballamo; however, Ballamo would unlikely know that Ballamo will fall down hitting his head on the pavement. In addition, Lanning could unlikely predict that his punch results in Ballamos death after 2 days, which proves that he was aware of committing an unlawful act but was not aware of fortuitous result falling and hitting head on pavement. Thus, the prosecutor may claim that Lanning had violent intentions because he knew that Ballamo was drunk and had poor coordination; he was not angry before it so that punch was intended, though provoked by Ballamo. Nevertheless, the defendant may argue that Lanning was aware of high degree of risk of Ballamos injury or death. As Lanning could be aware of the risk to fall, it does not mean that Lanning was aware of death as a result of punch, which also may be used by the defendant. It allows concluding that Lanning could have motives to injure Ballamo; an unlawful act that could be classified as intended violence has really taken place, which may be emphasized by the prosecution. For this reason, Lannings case should not be classified as negligent manslaughter: the defendant may claim that it is impossible to link Lannings violent intention or absence of such, and consider the punch as an act that provoked fall and hitting leading to the death of Ballamo.
Punching and Causality Issue
It is not stated if Lanning punched Ballamo severely, whereas his blood alcohol level was measured at .328 percent, which means that Ballamo was severely drunk. According to Peterson, adult men that consume the amount of alcohol causing such blood alcohol level loose coordination easily: .25 percent of blood alcohol containment causes staggering and severe motor skill disturbance (n.p.). Ballamos alcohol level was far beyond .25, which means that he had no proper coordination even without punches. Therefore, even minor punches could result in injury including a fall that could also be recognized by Lanning who was sober and adequate, which may be proved by the fact that he was going to drive. The defense may use the above-mentioned facts in the following way: Ballamo had high level of alcohol in blood, which means that he could fall and hit his head even without the punch. However, the same argument may be used by prosecution: if Lanning recognized that Ballamo was so drunk that could fall, why would he add to this fall? It also proves that Lanning had motives for the unlawful violent act towards Ballamo though it does not mean that he intended to cause Ballamos death.
This case may be viewed with consideration of its precedent, which is State vs. Pray. In this case, the situation was similar: two friends that were drinking alcohol and spending time together had a quarrel, and it is unknown if there was a real reason for it or not. Ralph Everett who had high level of alcohol in blood was assumed to behave violently, which made Robert Pray struck him against his cheat. Everett fall down and hit his head on the pavement, which caused death. A witness who was a common friend of Pray and Everett confirmed that Everett seemed to have violent intentions, which made him scary. The main question regarding this case was: should Pray be punished for unlawful-act-involuntary-manslaughter if there is no perceptibility between the unlawful act resulting in death? I think that this precedent may be very helpful because in Lannings case, it is also impossible to determine proper causality between punch and death.
Therefore, the defense may use State v. Pray claiming that person should be punished for the unlawful act if he or she is at fault with respect to the death, and should not be punished for a fortuitous result only because the act was unlawful. In Lannings case, it means that punching has not resulted in death; therefore, Lanning should be punished for the unlawful fact but not for murdering. In other words, Lanning may be punished for intended or unintended punching that led to fall but not for hitting head on the pavement and death.
Deprived Heart Murder?
The question is whether Lannings behavior may be classified as an unlawful act that could cause injury or death as it is impossible to prove if Lanning recognized that a light punch can make Ballamo fall down. Actually, before Ballamo was taken to hospital, the terms murder or manslaughter should not be used at all because neither death nor severe visible injury was provoked by the fall after the fight. The relevant elements regarding Lannings act include 1)dangerous act creating high risk of death; 2)knowledge of danger created by the act. Light punch cannot cause high risk of death and injury, however, some witnesses prove that Lannings acts went beyond one light punch. It may assume that Lanning beat Ballamo not once which serves a proof of aggression and severity of his acts. Witnesses words may be used by the prosecution to demonstrate that Lanning had committed intended violent acts against Ballamo. Alhough, this version was denied by other witnesses that is why it should not be accepted by the jury as sufficient evidence?. Taking it into account, reasonable person would not think that light punch can result in death, which proves that means rea as an element of knowledge should not be satisfied. However, reasonable person could also think that any movement or action against drunk person with poor coordination may result in injury. Essentially, the Court may conclude that Lanning was reasonable but angry because of Ballamos provokation, while Lanning recognized that Ballamo was drunk and could predict severity of his act. In turn, it may be proved by the fact that a single punch caused fall and injury, yet not death. The defendant should consider a malum prohibitum because Lanning was not intended to cause injury or death though his act is unlawful yet not immoral. In case Lanning intended to punch Ballamo to make him fall, Lannings act should be considered malum in se, which may be argued by the prosecution. However, Lannings behavior is only half of the case because Ballamos death occurred in two days as a result of a fall at hospital.
Semi-Consciousness and Causality
To focus on the connection between the punch and Ballamos condition, it is worth analyzing events that took place before the police responded. In the case, it is stated that Ballamo was semi-conscious when the police arrived. It is not stated if this condition was caused by injury as a result of punching. In addition, semi-consciousness could be a result of alcohol intoxication as well as a shock caused by the fall. The defendant may use this argument to demonstrate that semi-consciousness of Ballamo may result from not only the punch though its role is not denied. Thus, it cannot be proved what exactly made Ballamo semi-conscious: high percentage of alcohol in blood, injury as a result of a fall, shock as a result of a fall or everything together. Defense may use this by claiming that the casual line cannot be stated precisely that is why Lannings guilt in manslaughter cannot be proved.
As soon as police responded, Ballamo was taken to hospital to measure blood alcohol level while no first aid was provided. It allows concluding that no visible signs of injury were evident both by the police and medical personnel. After Ballamos blood alcohol level was measured, he was taken to detoxification center, but not to traumatology or reanimation, which also is also indicative of absence of visible severe injury. He was active and even did not allow treating him, which proves that there was no serious damage that could disturb him from being active and loud. Absence of medical examination of Ballamo immediately after the fight also makes it difficult to decide the causality and prove guilt of Lanning. In addition, police have not noticed any injury and have not added it to the description of Ballamos condition after the fall. It is also should be considered that Lanning disappeared from the case as soon as police arrived: he was not mentioned further. Along with that, nothing is said about Lannings condition and behavior in the police report, which also was not provided. It allows assuming that the fight did not happen because it was not fixed: the role of Lanning who punched Ballamo first is not emphasized.
Fall at the Hospital and Its Consequences
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The degree, to which Lannings punch contributed to Ballamos death, should be examined as well. Ballamo was restricting medical staff until he was taken to detoxification center at 4:30 A.M. The nurse who found him stated that Ballamo was lying near his bad apparently after a fall at 8:30 a.m. Further, he was transferred to hospital where he died in two days. The medical expertise concluded that he died after a massive bleeding in the brain stating that death was caused by a fall rather than by a hard punch. This conclusion may serve as an argument for the defendant: if Lannings punch was so damaging, would Ballamo be able to behave so vividly? However, the jury may deny this claim because the doctors did not provide any sufficient conclusive statements while this argument used by defense in assertion is not a reliable proof.
According to the case, the fall that caused death happened within 4 hours that Ballamo spend at hospital after detoxification: between 4:30 a.m. and 8.30 a.m. His condition was not checked after detoxification center while no medical experts assisted in this case to confirm severity of his condition before and after thefall in hospital. It means that Ballamo died as a result of a fall, but there were two falls: at the parking lot and at the hospital. It is impossible to know, which of them was more damaging and deadly; however, Ballamo remained active after the first one and was unconscious after the second one. This allows assuming that the second fall was deadly, which may be emphasized by the defender though the effect of the first fall remains unknown but not excluded.
It is worth weighting arguments both against and for Lannings guilt. Arguments of prosecution: Lannings awareness of his act; violent intentions against Ballamo; recognition of Ballamos condition and inability to control coordination. Arguments of defense: emotional excitement of Lanning should not be excluded; it is impossible to prove availability or absence of motives and existence of confrontation before the accident; absence of causality between Lannings awareness of act, Ballamos injury on the pavement and death; the second fall is more likely to cause massive bleeding in brain as after the first fall, Ballamo behaved vividly; alcohol intoxication might be the reason of semi-consciousness. It is obvious that the position of defense is more sufficient and fact-based though it implies weak reasoning as well. Taking into account the precedent, the jury should state that a person should not be punished for fortuitous result as it is not based on sound principles of criminal law. Modern view on the issue should be considered: there are more arguments that prove Lannings innocence in murdering but also confirm that Lanning should be punished for violent unlawful act against Ballamo. Lanning is guilty in punching either intentionally or unintentionally; however, he has arguments for defense that prove his innocence in murdering.