Cable v. Commonwealth

In Cable v. Commonwealth, 243 Va. 236, 239, 415 S.E.2d 218, 220 (1992), a hunting homicide case, the Supreme Court of Virginia set out the elements of involuntary manslaughter: Involuntary manslaughter is defined as the accidental killing of a person, contrary to the intention of the parties, during the prosecution of an unlawful, but not felonious, act, or during the improper performance of some lawful act. The "improper" performance of the lawful act, to constitute involuntary manslaughter, must amount to an unlawful commission of such lawful act, not merely a negligent performance. The negligence must be criminal negligence. The accidental killing must be the proximate result of a lawful act performed in a manner "so gross, wanton, and culpable as to show a reckless disregard of human life." 243 Va. at 240, 415 S.E.2d at 220. The Court then described "gross negligence" as follows: The term "gross, wanton, and culpable" describes conduct. The word "gross" means "aggravated or increased negligence" while the word "culpable" means "deserving of blame or censure." "' Gross negligence' is culpable or criminal when accompanied by acts of commission or omission of a wanton or willful nature, showing a reckless or indifferent disregard of the rights of others, under circumstances reasonably calculated to produce injury, or which make it not improbable that injury will be occasioned, and the offender knows, or is charged with the knowledge of, the probable result of his acts. Id. The Court held that "some of the very factors upon which the defendant relies to exonerate himself of criminal negligence actually tend to support the conviction," namely that "the defendant knew that his companion was nearby dressed in camouflage clothing . . . , so attired to conceal his presence, was fully aware that the thickness of the foliage would render a person so attired still more obscure," and "knew, or should have known, one of the basic principles of hunting safety, . . . ' always be sure of your target and what is behind it before you fire' " (243 Va at 241, 415 SE2d at 221).