Pope v. State, 284 Md. 309 (1979)

Case Name: Pope v. State
Citation: 284 Md. 309 (1979)

Facts: Pope was convicted after standing by while a mother beat her child to death in the defendant’s home. The mother had claimed she was God and that Satan had hidden himself inside the body of her child.

Defendant’s argument:  Pope did not have a legal duty (as opposed to a moral one). Also, because the mother was present, Pope could not have assumed responsibility for the supervision of the child.

State’s argument: Pope invited the woman and child into her home and fed them. This is assuming responsibility for both of them, especially after the child was in need of medical attention. In the alternative, there is a common law charge for “misprision of felony.”

Holding: Pope did not have a legal duty and should not be punished for not fulfilling a moral obligation. Also, the common law charge is too broad, has not been used for a long time, and is incompatible with our current laws.

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