Case Name: People v. Arzon
Citation: 401 NYS 2d 156
Facts: Arzon was indicted for two counts of murder in the second degree after intentionally setting fire to a couch and a fireman was killed. The fireman was “enveloped by a dense smoke,” which was later discovered to have arisen from another independent fire (an independent intervening cause) that had broken out on the second floor. There was virtually no evidence implicating Arzon in the second fire’s responsibility (although it did originate in arson).
Defendant’s argument: The evidence was insufficient to support Arzon’s murder charge because murder requires a causal link between the underlying crime and the death.
State’s argument: “It is not necessary that the ultimate harm be intended by the actor. It will suffice if it can be said, beyond a reasonable doubt, as indeed it can here be said, that the ultimate harm is something which should have been foreseen as being reasonably related to the acts of the accused.”
Holding: Arzon’s motion to dismiss the murder counts was denied.
Reasoning: The Court looked at foreseeability after it determined that the defendant’s conduct was foreseeable. It was foreseeable that firemen would respond to the situation, thus exposing them, to a life-threatening danger. The fire set by Arzon was an indispensable link in the chain of events that resulted in the death. The first and second fire were concurrent causes to the same result.
Compare to People v. Warner-Lambert Co.