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Should corporations be held liable for murder?


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#1 Guest_fuzzywuzzy6_*

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Posted 01 February 2009 - 06:01 PM

As more and more reports come in about the peanut butter recall, this topic has been increasingly on my mind.

There have been cases in the past where corporations have intentionally sent out potentially fatal products, believing that either they will not be held liable or that the costs of trial and/or settling lawsuits would be much less expensive than retooling machinery or recalling dangerous product.

I do not have citations for these cases, but they were well-publicized at the times they occurred:

The infamous Ford Pinto memo, where analysts suggested it would be far less expensive to have a few lawsuits and settlements than to re-engineer a dangerously designed car that could easily catch on fire or explode when involved in a collision.

The first successful case for prosecution of murder involving a corporation: In Harris County, Texas (Houston area) in the mid-1980's, a nursing home chain with an excellent reputation was charged with murder due to intentional neglect of patients, and in some cases, allowing staff members to continue in employment. Several years later, the corporation's founder and CEO was convicted. He was very heavily fined, and so was the corporation. I will try to find more details.

There have been numerous similar cases in the news, but few where either the corporation or its chief officers were charged with intentional homicide, as it is very difficult to prove. The episodes on Law & Order often portray an ideal world in terms of criminal prosecution. The writers, and the producer, Dick Wolf, are suggesting social policy changes.

In all the real world cases, there was a course of conduct that was engaged in over a lengthy period of time, as opposed to there being a single victim.

What do you think?

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#2 ryan_w_quick

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Posted 02 February 2009 - 03:59 PM

they definitely SHOULD be responsible. I mean if people are dying because of their product. just to stick with pb, we have stupid rules like "kids and teachers arent allowed to bring peanut butter into schools anymore, because of the ridiculously low possibility that some student with an allergic reaction to peanut butter could come into contact with it." now, if we want to go that far to product a small group of people from such a small risk, why should we tolerate a corporation putting hundreds of thousands at risk?
"To do less than your best is to sacrifice the gift." Steve Prefontaine

"The things you own end up owning you." Tyler Durden

"I do not feel obliged to believe that the same god who has endowed us with sense, reason and intellect has intended us to forgo their use." Galileo

#3 Guest_tylerisdabest_*

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Posted 23 February 2009 - 03:47 PM

murder counts for everyone but the us government doesn’t act like it

#4 GTK48

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Posted 23 February 2009 - 09:56 PM

For this Peanut Butter Nut , I say yes . He knowingly was putting out a product that was contaminated.

#5 ryan_w_quick

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Posted 24 February 2009 - 10:59 AM

yeah the peanut guy goes against ethics 101, but business doesnt really care about ethics. i hope he goes to jail forever
"To do less than your best is to sacrifice the gift." Steve Prefontaine

"The things you own end up owning you." Tyler Durden

"I do not feel obliged to believe that the same god who has endowed us with sense, reason and intellect has intended us to forgo their use." Galileo

#6 groovicus

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Posted 25 February 2009 - 08:24 AM

Ok, here is a question. How do you know who to charge? Do you just charge the business owner? What about the people that knew about the failed test. Are they not equally liable? What about the person or persons who presumably failed to clean their equipment properly? How about the people that were responsible for supervising those that cleaned the equipment? Are they not equally liable?

#7 Guest_Abacus 7_*

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Posted 25 February 2009 - 08:55 AM

Ok, here is a question. How do you know who to charge? Do you just charge the business owner? What about the people that knew about the failed test. Are they not equally liable? What about the person or persons who presumably failed to clean their equipment properly? How about the people that were responsible for supervising those that cleaned the equipment? Are they not equally liable?


:thumbsup:

Actually, in Business, the Buck stops with the Big Boss, Mate, no matter what Country it is.

By Starting up a Business or taking on a Top Job, even if it is to Run a Country it is the CEO's Responsibility for every thing that happens below him. There is no such thing as passing the Buck for a CEO. Even though many try to.

Edit.

I give no Links, because they are endless, just Google "Rules for CEOs"

:flowers:

Edited by Abacus 7, 25 February 2009 - 09:10 AM.


#8 groovicus

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Posted 25 February 2009 - 09:28 AM

Actually, in Business, the Buck stops with the Big Boss, Mate, no matter what Country it is.

No. In order to be convicted of a crime, there has to be intent to commit a crime, evidence that the accused intended for the crime to happen, and a clear connection between the two. In legal terms, it is mens rea, actus reus, and concurrence. That is exactly as it should be.

Here is an example. Suppose I run a company of several thousand workers, and we make cookies. I have a few staff members that are responsible for the hiring of employees, and I have other employees that are responsible for training. There is a good chance that I will never even meet many of those employees. Now suppose two of them decide to inject poison into the cookies, and as a result, seven children die, and hundreds more get sick. Since the food was intentionally poisoned, should the CEO be charged with murder in the first degree? After all, the intent was to kill someone, and it was clearly thought out ahead of time. I had no intent to commit a crime, I did not know of the crime, and I didn't even know the individuals who committed the crime.

British common law is very similar in this regard, and since Australian law is also based on British common law, I would wager that this holds there too. This is part of the problem with finding culpability in a corporate environment.

In the case of the peanut butter plant, even if the owner knew of the contamination, the court will still have to prove that he intended for people to get sick in order to be convicted of anything significant. I would lay money that the most he will be convicted of is recklessness based on the fact that a reasonable person would know that sending out tainted food could make people sick. Even if someone died, the charge would likely be the same.

it is the CEO's Responsibility for every thing that happens below him

Responsibility is not the same thing as culpability.

#9 Guest_Abacus 7_*

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Posted 25 February 2009 - 10:13 AM

Actually, in Business, the Buck stops with the Big Boss, Mate, no matter what Country it is.

No. In order to be convicted of a crime, there has to be intent to commit a crime, evidence that the accused intended for the crime to happen, and a clear connection between the two. In legal terms, it is mens rea, actus reus, and concurrence. That is exactly as it should be.

Here is an example. Suppose I run a company of several thousand workers, and we make cookies. I have a few staff members that are responsible for the hiring of employees, and I have other employees that are responsible for training. There is a good chance that I will never even meet many of those employees. Now suppose two of them decide to inject poison into the cookies, and as a result, seven children die, and hundreds more get sick. Since the food was intentionally poisoned, should the CEO be charged with murder in the first degree? After all, the intent was to kill someone, and it was clearly thought out ahead of time. I had no intent to commit a crime, I did not know of the crime, and I didn't even know the individuals who committed the crime.

British common law is very similar in this regard, and since Australian law is also based on British common law, I would wager that this holds there too. This is part of the problem with finding culpability in a corporate environment.

In the case of the peanut butter plant, even if the owner knew of the contamination, the court will still have to prove that he intended for people to get sick in order to be convicted of anything significant. I would lay money that the most he will be convicted of is recklessness based on the fact that a reasonable person would know that sending out tainted food could make people sick. Even if someone died, the charge would likely be the same.

it is the CEO's Responsibility for every thing that happens below him

Responsibility is not the same thing as culpability.


:thumbsup:

I am very happy to Debate this in a nice way with you as I think you may be flawed with your reasoning on it, Mate?

it is the CEO's Responsibility for every thing that happens below him




Responsibility is not the same thing as culpability.


That can be a very valid point, provided some criteria is met at the time.

If you, at the time of Discovery, handed the Matter over to the Police to be ivestigated, providing all relevant details, you would certainly be beyond reproach. But if you said nothing, you could be quite Guilty of an Offense, a very serious one.

I think that was the Topic of this Thread? Was it a little different to that?

Edit.

Ignorance of the Law is no Excuse in any Country. To ignore a Crime makes you an Accessory to that Crime, even Murder.

I did find this from America?

http://www.economicexpert.com/a/Conspiracy.htm

:flowers:

Edited by Abacus 7, 25 February 2009 - 10:40 AM.


#10 groovicus

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Posted 25 February 2009 - 10:38 AM

I was trying to address the difficulty with finding responsibility in a corporation. However, the facts are the facts. The elements of criminal law are clearly defined.

I am very happy to Debate this in a nice way with you as I think you may be flawed with your reasoning on it, Mate?

I am not reasoning at all, really. I am stating some of the basic facts of criminal law which are available in any intro to criminal justice book. But I am happy to discuss your point of view. I have a degree in criminal justice, and we spent a lot of time in class talking about cases like this, and why the law works the way it does, so if I appear to talk down to you, I apologize. I certainly do not mean to. I think people should take the time to understand the laws that affect them, and how they work, and I find it intensely interesting.

But if you said nothing, you could be quite Guilty of an Offense, a very serious one.

I am all for holding CEO's culpable if they are aware of what is happening. If they are intentionally doing something with the intent of doing harm to another, then throw the book at them. The legal system agrees. But it is never that clear. There have to be safeguards in place to protect the innocent. And that also makes it difficult to decide who should be charged.

Ignorance of the Law is no Excuse in any Country. To ignore a Crime makes you an Accessory to that Crime, even Murder.

Yes. Ignorance of the law is no excuse, although mistake of fact is. The rest of that statement is not correct though. If I witness a murder, I am not an accessory to murder. Accessory means that I participated in it. I can not be tried for murder merely for failing to report a murder, although in most states I can be charged with a misdemeanor.

#11 Guest_Abacus 7_*

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Posted 25 February 2009 - 10:58 AM

I was trying to address the difficulty with finding responsibility in a corporation. However, the facts are the facts. The elements of criminal law are clearly defined.

I am very happy to Debate this in a nice way with you as I think you may be flawed with your reasoning on it, Mate?

I am not reasoning at all, really. I am stating some of the basic facts of criminal law which are available in any intro to criminal justice book. But I am happy to discuss your point of view. I have a degree in criminal justice, and we spent a lot of time in class talking about cases like this, and why the law works the way it does, so if I appear to talk down to you, I apologize. I certainly do not mean to. I think people should take the time to understand the laws that affect them, and how they work, and I find it intensely interesting.

But if you said nothing, you could be quite Guilty of an Offense, a very serious one.

I am all for holding CEO's culpable if they are aware of what is happening. If they are intentionally doing something with the intent of doing harm to another, then throw the book at them. The legal system agrees. But it is never that clear. There have to be safeguards in place to protect the innocent. And that also makes it difficult to decide who should be charged.

Ignorance of the Law is no Excuse in any Country. To ignore a Crime makes you an Accessory to that Crime, even Murder.

Yes. Ignorance of the law is no excuse, although mistake of fact is. The rest of that statement is not correct though. If I witness a murder, I am not an accessory to murder. Accessory means that I participated in it. I can not be tried for murder merely for failing to report a murder, although in most states I can be charged with a misdemeanor.


:thumbsup:

Aw,

I am just a simple Aussie that ran a few Businesses, Mate.

Knowing the Basics of Law is a Must in this Country, otherwise we get get Deported, Mate.

We Deported heaps of our Blokes to somewhere else, but they still haven't learned, making heaps of money though?

I am not aware if you know. Under our Law if a Proffessional person is aware of a Crime and does not report it, they are in DEEP Problems.

I am not talking about Witnesses to a Murder, just the CEOs that ignore them, within their Organization.

Also applies to all Professionals in this Country, Mate.

:flowers:

#12 Guest_fuzzywuzzy6_*

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Posted 25 February 2009 - 03:09 PM

Groovicus, thank you very much for your excellent legal insights and analysis. Most people in the world get their notions of criminal intent from television shows such as Law & Order: Criminal Intent, which are not meant to be realistic, and sometimes promote social agendas, suggesting possible areas for legal policy change and changes in existing laws.

If Parnell Stewart directed that infected product be released, and did so on more than one occasion, he could quite possibly be held liable for murder. It is highly unlikely that he would serve any jail time--he would simply be assessed fines and other penalties. There would have to be the equivalent of the infamous Pinto car memorandum, which stated roughly (and this is a repeat from an earlier post in this same topic) that it was much cheaper to settle cases than to redesign a dangerously defective engine and to retool all the production lines. It all depends on how active Mr. Stewart's shredders and e-shredders are, and whether there are any employees willing to act as whistleblowers.

The car company responsible for the Pinto deaths and injuries were never charged with murder. The first attempt to charge a corporation with murder was not made until many years later.

#13 groovicus

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Posted 25 February 2009 - 05:10 PM

The car company responsible for the Pinto deaths and injuries were never charged with murder.

That is because there was no intent to commit murder.

If Parnell Stewart directed that infected product be released, and did so on more than one occasion, he could quite possibly be held liable for murder.

Only if his intent was to commit murder.

There are four degrees of crimes: purposely, knowingly, recklessly, and negligently. I think purposely needs no definition. Knowingly means that one knows they broke the law, although they may not have done it on purpose. For example, someone slips drugs into your pocket, and right as you walk into a school zone, you slip your hand in your pocket and discover the drugs. You didn't mean to possess drugs (not purposely), and you didn't know they were there until some later time (so not knowingly), but once you discovered them there, then you knew that you had committed a crime.

Recklessly means that you know that you are creating a "substantial and unjustifiable" risk. That is likely where Stewart Parnell will be charged, unless he is an utter moron, and truly did not know that his tainted products could make someone sick. If he really did not know, then he is merely negligent. That is, a reasonable person would know that that his decisions would create a risk, even if he didn't.

The distinctions are a bit more nuanced than that, but should serve as a base of understanding. Intent is more important towards the left end of the scale, and not really necessary to prove cases of neglect or recklessness.

EDIT: I just read this on msn:

Federal authorities have launched a criminal investigation into allegations Peanut Corp. knowingly shipped tainted food.


In order to move the crime up to knowing, investigators are going to have to prove that he know with 100% certainty that the food sent out was infected. Not that he suspected it might be, but knew. That is going to be incredibly difficult to prove.

#14 DaChew

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Posted 25 February 2009 - 05:40 PM

http://www.grist.org/news/muck/2005/01/21/little-rockyflats/

Justice takes a blind eye when enviromental murder is committed under the guise of nation defense or security.

The whole system is corrupt.

There is a higher law
Chewy

No. Try not. Do... or do not. There is no try.

#15 groovicus

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Posted 25 February 2009 - 05:48 PM

Justice takes a blind eye when enviromental murder is committed under the guise of nation defense or security.


Pretty much not at all what we are discussing, so let's keep it on topic, shall we? And if you don't mind, we are having a discussion, not just throwing out random links and supposititious statements.

The whole system is corrupt.

Only if you believe that everybody is corrupt. The system is imperfect and dynamic. The system is not corrupt, but some people in it are, just like any other profession.

There is a higher law

Higher law than what?




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