In what circumstances will a defendant be held liable for the murder of a police officer who was shot by a defendant who was carrying nitroglycerin?

California, United States of America

The following excerpt is from The People v. Myers, D054179, No. SCD184845 (Cal. App. 2010):

In People v. Kauffman, supra, 152 Cal. 331, the defendant and six others, armed with guns, a bottle of nitroglycerin and burglary tools, planned to break into a safe at a cemetery. However, because there was an armed guard near the safe, the group decided against the burglary. On their way home, the group encountered a police officer and a gunfight ensued, in which the officer was killed. Although the defendant, who had been carrying the nitroglycerin, was unarmed and did not take part in the shooting, he was charged with and convicted of the officer's murder. (Id. at pp. 332-334.) In upholding the conviction, page 334, the high court observed: "There is no dispute about the rules of law governing the criminal liability of each of several parties engaging in an unlawful conspiracy or combination. An apt statement of them, abundantly supported by authority, is to be found in 8 Cyc. 641, in the following language: 'The general rule is well settled that where several parties conspire or combine together to commit any unlawful act, each is criminally responsible for the acts of his associates or confederates committed in furtherance of any prosecution of the common design for which they combine. In contemplation of law the act of one is the act of all. Each is responsible for everything done by his confederates, which follows incidentally in the execution of the common design as one of its probable and natural consequences, even though it was not intended as a part of the original design or common plan....' " (Id. at p. 334.)12

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