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Teen Charged with Manslaughter After Schoolyard Beating Leaves Classmate Dead


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Teen Charged With Manslaughter After Schoolyard Beating Leaves Classmate Dead

Friday, February 08, 2008

OLATHE, Kan. A Kansas teen was charged with involuntary manslaughter Wednesday in the death of a 16-year-old schoolmate who collapsed after a fight that was captured on a bystander's cell phone.

Dustin Howard, 16, of Gardner, Kan., is accused of unintentionally killing Dakota DeRemus while committing battery.

Four classmates witnessed the fight and one recorded it on his cell phone, investigators told KCTV5.com.

"If this rumor is true that they decided to videotape my grandson's death, then that is a sick thing to happen," Rosella Davis, DeRemus' grandmother, told the station.

Howard was ordered held in juvenile detention after a brief court hearing Wednesday that ended with the victim's father yelling at Howard's parents and being detained by police. The Johnson County district attorney's office is seeking to have Howard tried as an adult.

DeRemus, a sophomore at Gardner Edgerton High School, attended school Monday and was found dead about 5 p.m. near his home. His death was ruled a homicide after an autopsy determined that DeRemus had a heart condition.

When Johnson County Magistrate Judge Michael Farley ordered Howard to remain in the detention center, DeRemus' father, Scott DeRemus, yelled at Howard's mother and stepfather: "Two years! Two years your son has been bullying my son."

Deputies pinned DeRemus against a wall and later led him away in handcuffs. Other relatives declined to comment.

Howard, also a sophomore at Gardner Edgerton, appeared at the hearing via video feed from the detention center. After Scott DeRemus' outburst, Howard's sobbing mother was led from the courtroom.

Tim Yoho, deputy superintendent at Gardner Edgerton, said counselors had been called in to the school on Tuesday but school was not in session Wednesday through Friday because of snow and parent-teacher conferences.

Yoho said DeRemus' family had asked that no other information be released and said he could not comment on reports that DeRemus had been bullied.

Howard's next court appearance was scheduled for Feb. 19.

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I don't know what to think about that. If it was a FAIR fight, just fisticuffs between 2 kids, I wouldn't call that "manslaughter." ****, that's just bad luck -- most folks don't die from a punch.

If it was an unmitigated beatdown of a smaller, weaker kid by a bigger, stronger kid, the law calls that "disparity of force," and the bully deserves what he gets.

Either way, it's a horrible tragedy.

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JDaveG (2/8/2008)
I don't know what to think about that. If it was a FAIR fight, just fisticuffs between 2 kids, I wouldn't call that "manslaughter." ****, that's just bad luck -- most folks don't die from a punch.

If it was an unmitigated beatdown of a smaller, weaker kid by a bigger, stronger kid, the law calls that "disparity of force," and the bully deserves what he gets.

Either way, it's a horrible tragedy.

Fair fights don't exist anymore.

Honestly, in my entire life I have seen a bunch of schoolyard fights. Only once did two guys ever have a fair fight and stop once a guy went down. The rest of the times it was just one guy attacking another and a bunch of guys standing around watching or trying to get it on tape.

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lax32 (2/8/2008)
Fair fights don't exist anymore.

Honestly, in my entire life I have seen a bunch of schoolyard fights. Only once did two guys ever have a fair fight and stop once a guy went down. The rest of the times it was just one guy attacking another and a bunch of guys standing around watching or trying to get it on tape.

That's sad. It reminds me of the gun scene in "Friday."

(shows fists) "These were all you need. You win some, you lose some, but you LIVE!"

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Well that's why it's involuntary manslaughter. The kid meant to injure the other kid, he didn't mean to kill him. But death is a possibility any time two people get in a fight. Thats the entire reason involuntary manslaughter is a charge. Just because two idiots get into a fight willingly with each other doesn't mean that it should be legal.

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pzummo (2/8/2008)
Well that's why it's involuntary manslaughter. The kid meant to injure the other kid, he didn't mean to kill him. But death is a possibility any time two people get in a fight. Thats the entire reason involuntary manslaughter is a charge. Just because two idiots get into a fight willingly with each other doesn't mean that it should be legal.

Even involuntary manslaughter requires that the person know (or should know) that death is foreseeable. Death is "a possibility" anytime you wake up (your blood pressure is higher in the morning) or drive to work or cross the street. That doesn't mean that if someone runs into you and kills you or wakes you from your sleep or hits you in a crosswalk they are guilty of manslaughter. The question is whether it is foreseeable that death would result in this instance, and you recklessly proceeded anyway.

I don't see that as being typical in your average streetfight, again assuming we're talking about just a fistfight and not banging his head into the concrete or doing a powerslam on the sidewalk or something really stupid.

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JDaveG (2/8/2008)
pzummo (2/8/2008)
Well that's why it's involuntary manslaughter. The kid meant to injure the other kid, he didn't mean to kill him. But death is a possibility any time two people get in a fight. Thats the entire reason involuntary manslaughter is a charge. Just because two idiots get into a fight willingly with each other doesn't mean that it should be legal.

Even involuntary manslaughter requires that the person know (or should know) that death is foreseeable. Death is "a possibility" anytime you wake up (your blood pressure is higher in the morning) or drive to work or cross the street. That doesn't mean that if someone runs into you and kills you or wakes you from your sleep or hits you in a crosswalk they are guilty of manslaughter. The question is whether it is foreseeable that death would result in this instance, and you recklessly proceeded anyway.

I don't see that as being typical in your average streetfight, again assuming we're talking about just a fistfight and not banging his head into the concrete or doing a powerslam on the sidewalk or something really stupid.

This coming from a guy with a picture of a fighting stance in his avatar. Look up the legal definition of involuntary manslaughter and then get back to us.

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JDaveG (2/8/2008)
lax32 (2/8/2008)
Fair fights don't exist anymore.

Honestly, in my entire life I have seen a bunch of schoolyard fights. Only once did two guys ever have a fair fight and stop once a guy went down. The rest of the times it was just one guy attacking another and a bunch of guys standing around watching or trying to get it on tape.

That's sad. It reminds me of the gun scene in "Friday."

(shows fists) "These were all you need. You win some, you lose some, but you LIVE!"

The sad thing is that I didn't grow up in Compton or anything, I went to school in Cobb... its not exactly the roughest neighborhood over there.

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birddawg97 (2/8/2008)
This coming from a guy with a picture of a fighting stance in his avatar.

This is enough to disqualify your opinion, and yet I am compelled to go on....

Look up the legal definition of involuntary manslaughter and then get back to us.

From KSA 24-34-04:

Involuntary manslaughter is the unintentional killing of a human being committed:

(a) Recklessly;

(B) in the commission of, or attempt to commit, or flight from any felony, other than an inherently dangerous felony as defined in K.S.A. 21-3436 and amendments thereto, that is enacted for the protection of human life or safety or a misdemeanor that is enacted for the protection of human life or safety, including acts described in K.S.A. 8-1566 and subsection (a) of 8-1568, and amendments thereto, but excluding the acts described in K.S.A. 8-1567 and amendments thereto; or

© during the commission of a lawful act in an unlawful manner.

Kansas courts have interpreted subsection © above to mean that the death must have been foreseeable. State v. Scott, 250 Kan. 350, 827 P.2d 733 (Kan. 1992), citing Jabron v. State, 172 Miss. 135, 159 So. 406 (Miss. 1935) (manslaughter conviction in death of child to whom defendant gave whisky reversed; defendant had no reason to anticipate act would result in death; evidence showed child's mother also gave child whisky on same day; child liked, had access to whisky). Obviously, subsections (a) and (B) would not apply to a typical fight.

Got anything else?

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saint vitus (2/9/2008)
I heard you could kill someone by punching them in the nose because the cartilage can pierce their brain.

I don't even know if it is possible for that to happen, but the idea that people are trained to do this (or that one can do it reliably) is a myth. I'd like to see even one legitimate report of that ever happening. I have trained in several martial arts, and no one has ever said "if your life is in danger, be sure to cram the cartilige in their nose up into their brain!"

There are far more efficient ways to kill someone with your bare hands. Not that I'm advocating any of them -- just pointing out that the above is much more Hollywood bullcrap than actual fact.

Also if I "accidently" punch someone in the throat and they die, you're saying I could get off lightly?

Depends on the circumstances. If it were foreseeable that your punch would hit them in the throat and could reasonably cause death, probably not. If it were not foreseeable, probably so.

What if I shoved someone and they fell and broke their neck?

Again, foreseeability is the key, not what happened. The key is whether your conduct is reckless or committed during the comission of another enumerated crime. It's not whether some ridiculously remote set of circumstances actually occurred and death resulted.

Put another way, there's an enormous difference between two high schoolers getting into a typical fistfight or wrestling match on grass and powerslaming someone onto concrete or mounting them and punching their head into the pavement or grabbing their chin and back of head and twisting. An ENORMOUS difference.

And, FWIW, I am NOT saying that fighting is not (or should not be) a crime. I'm saying that a normal fistfight between two kids is not (or should not be) homicide just because someone died. The mens rea is just not there to support homicide.

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I'm not so sure that forseeability is a required element. I could be mistaken but I think misdemeanor manslaughter falls within the lines of involuntary manslaughter. Forseeability isn't required to be charged with misdemeanor manslaughter. Also, the eggshell plaintiff rule might come into play here.

At any rate, you reap what you sow. Hard to pity this cat when the other guy is dead... especially if he had been picking on him for two years. Fry his ##### :)

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judas yeast (2/11/2008)
I'm not so sure that forseeability is a required element. I could be mistaken but I think misdemeanor manslaughter falls within the lines of involuntary manslaughter. Forseeability isn't required to be charged with misdemeanor manslaughter. Also, the eggshell plaintiff rule might come into play here.

At any rate, you reap what you sow. Hard to pity this cat when the other guy is dead... especially if he had been picking on him for two years. Fry his ##### :)

We're getting esoteric here, but 3 points are relevant.

1) So-called "misdemeanor manslaughter" (a/k/a negligent homicide, etc.) is not what was being discussed, clearly. You can consider it a form of "involuntary manslaughter" in that it is involuntary, but it is not the same charge. Most folks don't consider it manslaughter. That may be nit-picky, but one of my professors once told me "if you are going to use a term of art, use it artfully." I think that applies here. Also, foreseeability is an element of negligence, and if mens rea is involved (and I cannot imagine that any form of homicide would be considered a malum prohibitum crime), it would have to be an element of negligent homicide/misdemeanor manslaughter, whatever you want to call it.

2) We don't "fry (anyone's) #####" for misdemeanor crimes in this country. Frankly, we don't do so for all but the most heinous felonies. One wouldn't get the death penalty for VOLUNTARY manslaughter (i.e., intent to kill mitigated down for whatever reason). He sure wouldn't get it for a misdemeanor homicide.

3) "Eggshell plaintiffs" are typically referred to in tort cases where mens rea is not required. The issue for crimes is "what was the actor's state of mind?" If he has mens rea necessary for the crime, he is guilty. If he does not, he is not guilty. That's why foreseeability is almost always a factor.

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JDaveG (2/8/2008)
birddawg97 (2/8/2008)
This coming from a guy with a picture of a fighting stance in his avatar.

This is enough to disqualify your opinion, and yet I am compelled to go on....

Look up the legal definition of involuntary manslaughter and then get back to us.

From KSA 24-34-04:

Involuntary manslaughter is the unintentional killing of a human being committed:

(a) Recklessly;

(B) in the commission of, or attempt to commit, or flight from any felony, other than an inherently dangerous felony as defined in K.S.A. 21-3436 and amendments thereto, that is enacted for the protection of human life or safety or a misdemeanor that is enacted for the protection of human life or safety, including acts described in K.S.A. 8-1566 and subsection (a) of 8-1568, and amendments thereto, but excluding the acts described in K.S.A. 8-1567 and amendments thereto; or

© during the commission of a lawful act in an unlawful manner.

Kansas courts have interpreted subsection © above to mean that the death must have been foreseeable. State v. Scott, 250 Kan. 350, 827 P.2d 733 (Kan. 1992), citing Jabron v. State, 172 Miss. 135, 159 So. 406 (Miss. 1935) (manslaughter conviction in death of child to whom defendant gave whisky reversed; defendant had no reason to anticipate act would result in death; evidence showed child's mother also gave child whisky on same day; child liked, had access to whisky). Obviously, subsections (a) and (B) would not apply to a typical fight.

Got anything else?

You are misinterpreting the way the law is written. Those bullets of a/b/c are either/or, not and. That's a huge difference. If you accidentally kill somebody while being reckless, it's involuntary manslaughter. If you are evading from a felony and accidentally kill somebody, it's involuntary manslaughter. If you do it while committing a lawful act in an unlawful manner, death must have been forseeable. Assault is not a lawful act, so this case would be charged under one of the first two circumstances. Getting in a streetfight is definitely reckless behavior, so he very well could be charged using the first definition of involuntary manslaughter.

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pzummo (2/11/2008)
You are misinterpreting the way the law is written. Those bullets of a/b/c are either/or, not and. That's a huge difference.

Uh, I'm not misrepresenting anything. I did not say or imply that they were anything BUT either/or, and my words don't reasonably infer that they are. The point is, a voluntary fight where both sides participate (which is the ONLY thing I said would not be manslaughter) is not a "reckless" act as between the two parties to the fight, and it sure is not an enumerated felony, so the only argument left for involuntary manslaughter would be subsection ©, which the Kansas courts have said does not apply absent foreseeability.

If you accidentally kill somebody while being reckless, it's involuntary manslaughter. If you are evading from a felony and accidentally kill somebody, it's involuntary manslaughter. If you do it while committing a lawful act in an unlawful manner, death must have been forseeable. Assault is not a lawful act, so this case would be charged under one of the first two circumstances. Getting in a streetfight is definitely reckless behavior, so he very well could be charged using the first definition of involuntary manslaughter.

Getting in a streetfight is not reckless behavior as it regards whether death might result. ****, it's not even recklessness in the sense that someone might be recklessly hurt, because they are intending to hurt each other, not merely disregarding that someone might get hurt when a reasonable person would know there is a substantial likelihood of harm (which is the traditional definition of reckless behavior). But to say that it is reckless in the sense the statute speaks of, i.e., that it was an unintentional killing of a human being committed recklessly, ignores the fact that this definition would require that it be foreseeable that death might result, because you cannot apply a "reasonable prudent person" standard without having foreseeability.

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Ramen (2/11/2008)
If the kid who was killed entered the fight voluntarily, then isn't he also guilty of attempted manslaughter?

If two kids at school enter a fight and neither die, why aren't they both charged with attempted manslaughter?

They could plead it down to aggravated assault.

Oh, wait, there's no deadly weapon involved. Crap, that kind of screws up the argument doesn't it? :P

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