At the 1994 annual awards dinner given for Forensic Science, AAFS
> President Dr Don Harper Mills astounded his audience with the legal
> complications of a bizarre death. Here is the story.
> On March 23, 1994 the medical examiner viewed the body of Ronald
> concluded that he died from a shotgun wound to the head. Mr Opus had
> jumped from the top of a ten-story building intending to commit
> He left a note to the effect indicating his despondency. As he fell
> the ninth floor his life was interrupted by a shotgun blast passing
> through a window, which killed him instantly. Neither the shooter nor
> deceased was aware that a safety net had been installed just below
> eighth floor level to protect some building workers and that Ronald
> would not have been able to complete his suicide the way he had
> "Ordinarily," Dr Mills continued, "A person who sets out to commit
> suicide and ultimately succeeds, even though the mechanism might not
> what he intended, is still defined as committing suicide." That Mr
> was shot on the way to certain death, but probably would not have
> successful because of the safety net, caused the medical examiner to
> that he had a homicide on his hands.
> The room on the ninth floor, where the shotgun blast emanated, was
> occupied by an elderly man and his wife. They were arguing
> he was threatening her with a shotgun. The man was so upset that
> pulled the trigger he completely missed his wife and the pellets
> through the window striking Mr Opus. When one intends to kill subject
> but kills subject "B" in the attempt, one is guilty of the murder of
> subject "B."
> When confronted with the murder charge the old man and his wife were
> adamant and both said that they thought the shotgun was unloaded.
> man said it was a long-standing habit to threaten his wife with the
> unloaded shotgun. He had no intention to murder her.
> Therefore the killing of Mr Opus appeared to be an accident; that
> the gun had been accidentally loaded. The continuing investigation
> up a witness who saw the old couple's son loading the shotgun about
> weeks prior to the fatal accident.
> It transpired that the old lady had cut off her son's financial
> and the son, knowing the propensity of his father to use the shotgun
> threateningly, loaded the gun with the expectation that his father
> shoot his mother.
> Since the loader of the gun was aware of this, he was guilty of the
> even though he didn't actually pull the trigger. The case now
> of murder on the part of the son for the death of Ronald Opus.
> Now comes the exquisite twist. Further investigation revealed that
> was, in fact, Ronald Opus. He had become increasingly despondent
> failure of his attempt to engineer his mother's murder. This led him
> jump off the ten story building on March 23rd, only to be killed by
> shotgun blast passing through the ninth story window. The son had
> murdered himself so the medical examiner closed the case as a
> (A story from Associated Press, Reported by Kurt Westervelt)
I have learned silence from the talkative, tolerance from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind; yet, stranger, I am ungrateful to these teachers.