Death Penalty for Negligence resulting in Loss of Life


Let me preface by saying that I'm not sure what my stance is on the death penalty and I'm not here to support or argue against it. 

I'd like to know if in states like Texas, where there is the death penalty, if you are responsible for a design that collapses and kills people, could you be punished by death? 

Jun 4, 14 3:03 pm

Read up on the story about the California guy who was an architect/contractor and homeowner. He designed a fireplace that ended up causing fire and a firefighter died in the house and civil and criminal charges were brought against him. As an architect knowingly doing something that results in loss of life could result in very serious charges. As far as death penalty, I'm not sure!

Jun 4, 14 4:01 pm

This link might help you understand your risk:

In the circumstances you describe, I doubt the collapse of a building would meet the standards for "murder" -- more likely "manslaughter arising from negligence"

Jun 4, 14 4:18 pm

NO.  Death penalty is for first degree murder.  The court would have to prove that the architect had intent and premeditation to kill people. 

Jun 4, 14 4:23 pm

and if the building collapses the engineer would probably be the one responsible 

Jun 4, 14 4:24 pm

if the architect was this guy then maybe...

Jun 4, 14 6:23 pm
Non Sequitur

The death penalty is just another archaic relic people just can't shake. I would be embarrassed to live in a place that still allowed it.

With that aside, no... it's ridiculous to impose such a penalty, even for the most backwater parts of the USA bible-belt. I feel that given the multitude of hands in a project that any criminal charges from professional negligence would be split among the guilty parties. Also, would not the jurisdiction which approved the permit take a piece of the responsibility pie?

Jun 4, 14 6:29 pm

No.  It isn't premeditated. 

And I have worked on two construction defect cases involving deaths directly attributable to construction (there have been others like fires that are more quasi-related like lack of draftstops or egress issues as contributing factors). 

Both the directly attributable ones were residential handrails overlooking the living room attached with finish nails.  The owners leaned too hard against them and fell to their deaths.

Lots of injury ones too...  Decks in particular seem to be issues.  I don't think anyone has even lost their license over these and no criminal charges that I know of.

Jun 4, 14 6:39 pm

Civil suits are the normal punishment for professional malfeasance.

Some time ago a local architect designed a house with a door opening into a basement stair without a landing. A child in the house opened the door into the grandfather, who was near the top of the stairs, and down he went to his death. It was been said that the architect's lifetime wages were garnished to pay the civil penalty.

Interesting to note that the local building department that reviewed and approved the plans for compliance with code was exempt from liability.

Jun 4, 14 7:37 pm

All I know is that the guy that stabbed those two kids in Brooklyn should be burned alive...

Jun 4, 14 8:24 pm

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