Death penalty recommended for California arsonist

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Death penalty recommended for California arsonist

Postby ++$_ » Thu Mar 19, 2009 1:24 am UTC

CNN
AP

I get really angry at arsonists, and this guy probably deserves a very heavy sentence, but is starting a wildland fire really first-degree murder?

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Re: Death penalty recommended for California arsonist

Postby Julien » Thu Mar 19, 2009 1:30 am UTC

Oh no, don't execute him, it's too expensive !
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Re: Death penalty recommended for California arsonist

Postby Gears » Thu Mar 19, 2009 1:39 am UTC

If it was intentional and he killed people than I don't see how it's different than murder.
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Re: Death penalty recommended for California arsonist

Postby ian » Thu Mar 19, 2009 1:49 am UTC

Gears wrote:If it was intentional and he killed people than I don't see how it's different than murder.

Do you mean if starting the wildfire was intentional, or starting it with the intention of people dying was intentional?

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Re: Death penalty recommended for California arsonist

Postby Gears » Thu Mar 19, 2009 1:55 am UTC

Intent of killing people. I mean if he was clearing land and it got out of hand that's not as bad, but with the intent of burning down a town that is not ok.
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Re: Death penalty recommended for California arsonist

Postby Princess Marzipan » Thu Mar 19, 2009 2:29 am UTC

Julien wrote:Oh no, don't execute him, it's too expensive !

Is that sarcasm? Because it will, ultimately, cost the system more than just life imprisonment. You're trivializing a rather valid argument.

Gears wrote:If it was intentional and he killed people than I don't see how it's different than murder.

It's pretty different. It's arson.
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Re: Death penalty recommended for California arsonist

Postby Silas » Thu Mar 19, 2009 2:36 am UTC

++$_ wrote:I get really angry at arsonists, and this guy probably deserves a very heavy sentence, but is starting a wildland fire really first-degree murder?

Yes: when you kill someone while committing a felony, the death can be ruled felony murder. Specific intent to kill someone is not required.
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Re: Death penalty recommended for California arsonist

Postby Gears » Thu Mar 19, 2009 2:47 am UTC

Did you read my second post Marzipan?
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Re: Death penalty recommended for California arsonist

Postby Dream » Thu Mar 19, 2009 4:25 am UTC

On a different note, this makes me more than a little concerned:
The foreman choked back tears as he recalled some of the testimony from family members. He hugged several of them outside court.
Sounds like he had some strong emotional connection there. It worries me that someone who was so obviously emotionally invested handed down a verdict on such a charged case with such consequences at stake. The jury essentially had to choose between life without parole and death, and did so while sympathising greatly with the victim's families.

Is the death penalty in use here just to make people feel better?
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Re: Death penalty recommended for California arsonist

Postby Texas_Ben » Thu Mar 19, 2009 4:59 am UTC

Princess Marzipan wrote:
Gears wrote:If it was intentional and he killed people than I don't see how it's different than murder.

It's pretty different. It's arson.

If you light someone's house on fire with the intent of killing them and they die in the fire, sure it's arson, but it's also murder. Same principle.

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Re: Death penalty recommended for California arsonist

Postby Dream » Thu Mar 19, 2009 5:22 am UTC

Texas_Ben wrote:
Princess Marzipan wrote:
Gears wrote:If it was intentional and he killed people than I don't see how it's different than murder.

It's pretty different. It's arson.

If you light someone's house on fire with the intent of killing them and they die in the fire, sure it's arson, but it's also murder. Same principle.


And if a completely uninvolved third party runs into the danger area to fight the fire, voluntarily putting themselves at risk of death, is that murder?
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Re: Death penalty recommended for California arsonist

Postby Bubbles McCoy » Thu Mar 19, 2009 5:54 am UTC

When they're legally obligated to do so (and you're well aware of the obligation), yes.

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Re: Death penalty recommended for California arsonist

Postby Princess Marzipan » Thu Mar 19, 2009 5:58 am UTC

No, it's arson that caused a death.

Which it appears there are specific laws for distinct from plain ol' arson and plain ol' murder anyway.
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Re: Death penalty recommended for California arsonist

Postby Gears » Thu Mar 19, 2009 6:01 am UTC

Are the laws of arson for burning down buildings or for murder? Can you be charged with both? Somebody burned down the next town over's school so i'll follow that story.
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Re: Death penalty recommended for California arsonist

Postby Dream » Thu Mar 19, 2009 6:34 am UTC

Bubbles McCoy wrote:When they're legally obligated to do so (and you're well aware of the obligation), yes.


They are not under any obligation to do anything lethal, so the obligation to fight the fire is not the same as deliberately killing them. Deliberate killing is the definition of homicide, not doing something dangerous and having a person die while cleaning up your mess.
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Re: Death penalty recommended for California arsonist

Postby Bluggo » Thu Mar 19, 2009 6:59 am UTC

While I am opposed to death penalty, I think that (morally speaking, at least; I know nothing about US laws) this should definitely count as murder.

If he had willingly set fire to a palace this would have obviously been a murder, even if it somehow had slipped his mind that people were likely to die, is this correct?

Well, setting fire to a wood in a dry day is pretty much the same as far as I am concerned: on one hand, there are less people around, but on the other - exactly since there are less people around - it is more likely to go unnoticed until it spreads out of control and kills people.

As far as I am concerned, a life sentence would be definitely deserved.
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Re: Death penalty recommended for California arsonist

Postby Malice » Thu Mar 19, 2009 7:07 am UTC

Dream wrote:
Bubbles McCoy wrote:When they're legally obligated to do so (and you're well aware of the obligation), yes.


They are not under any obligation to do anything lethal, so the obligation to fight the fire is not the same as deliberately killing them. Deliberate killing is the definition of homicide, not doing something dangerous and having a person die while cleaning up your mess.


The Wiki entry on felony murder has a lot of interesting back on forth on this question.

The basic rule says that if an offender kills accidentally or without specific intent to kill in the commission of a felony, what would have been manslaughter is upgraded to murder.

The original concept is of "transferred intent"--where basically the fact that you intended to commit a crime means that, legally, you intended every consequence of that crime, even if you didn't know they would happen. (Poacher shoots at a deer and hits a kid he didn't know was there--legally, he intended to kill the kid because he intended to poach the deer, therefore it's murder.)

However! Only certain felonies qualify, dangerous felonies. Obviously arson fits that category. And the "chain" between the felony and the death has to be short enough. If Bob sets a fire which causes somebody five miles away to look at the smoke and run over a piece of glass which pops their tire and then later when they're getting their car fixed a tool falls on their head and they die, Bob can't be charged with that. But if Bob sets a house on fire and doesn't know that there are people in the house and they die, Bob can be charged with felony murder.

But! Felony murder can only carry the death penalty--in certain jurisdictions, including the US--if the person killed, attempted to kill, or intended to kill (which this arsonist doesn't fit) OR if the person was a major participant (ie., didn't just wait in the car) and "exhibits extreme indifference to human life".

So! If you think that setting a fire exhibits extreme indifference to human life, then it doesn't matter whether he could have known a firefighter would get killed, because anybody could have been, really, and somebody did, so that's death penalty murder.

(Yeah, so I basically just paraphrased the relevant bits from that article. But in my defense, I found it really, really interesting.)

If my logic is correct, my actual opinion is that, yeah, this guy should get the death penalty. At least under the current laws. My overarching opinion is that we shouldn't have a death penalty because it's useless and expensive and our justice system is nowhere near flawless.
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Re: Death penalty recommended for California arsonist

Postby Dream » Thu Mar 19, 2009 7:21 am UTC

But what do you think about the question of whether the crime this person committed is the same as that committed by an "actual" murderer: premeditation, deliberation, intent and all that? Leaving the law aside, do you think he literally murdered these firefighters, or that he can be legally tried for their murder?
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Re: Death penalty recommended for California arsonist

Postby Malice » Thu Mar 19, 2009 7:34 am UTC

Dream wrote:But what do you think about the question of whether the crime this person committed is the same as that committed by an "actual" murderer: premeditation, deliberation, intent and all that? Leaving the law aside, do you think he literally murdered these firefighters, or that he can be legally tried for their murder?


I think it falls under the same concept as "depraved indifference". He set a fire thinking, "eh, what the fuck", and people died as a result. Morally I lay that at his door. I wouldn't kill him for it but I'd put the kind of person who could do such a thoughtless, dangerous thing in jail for, at the least, a very long time.
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Re: Death penalty recommended for California arsonist

Postby Dream » Thu Mar 19, 2009 7:53 am UTC

That I can agree with 100%.

My only objection to the whole thing is that there should be a strong enough law and sentencing to cover these things under arson rather than murder, because I find it a worryingly broad definition or murder. That and the jury foreman.
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Re: Death penalty recommended for California arsonist

Postby Malice » Thu Mar 19, 2009 8:47 am UTC

I'm not sure what you mean. If somebody died, and it's somebody else's fault, that's a murder thing, not an arson thing. Are you saying there should be a specific crime that's the same thing as this scenario only it's called "arson that led to somebody's death"? Seems like nothing but semantics, if that's the case.
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Re: Death penalty recommended for California arsonist

Postby Dream » Thu Mar 19, 2009 8:56 am UTC

Much in the same way that corporate manslaughter can apportion 100% of the blame for a death, and even include foreknowledge of the risk of death, and a decision to put employees at risk of death, but not have those deaths be murder. Because the corporation wanted profit, or whatever, and was willing to ignore therisk of deaths to achieve that, as opposed to seeking the deaths of its employees. An arsonist wanted a big fuck off fire with publicity and vicarious infamy, but someone died in extinguishing it? That to me is a manslaughter, but meriting far heavier sentencing that is usual for that crime. I think the difference in specific intent is too big for these particular deaths to come under the definition of murder.
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Re: Death penalty recommended for California arsonist

Postby Julien » Thu Mar 19, 2009 10:32 am UTC

Princess Marzipan wrote:
Julien wrote:Oh no, don't execute him, it's too expensive !

Is that sarcasm? Because it will, ultimately, cost the system more than just life imprisonment. You're trivializing a rather valid argument.


It IS sarcasm indeed : I was making a pun to another thread where we discussed the higher cost of execution.

If I had to be serious and express myself about this arsonist, let's say before all that I'm against any kind of capital punishment. But still the question remains : is an arsonist a murderer or not ? I say : no, if there is a word for "arsonist" then it's not murder. It's something different.

Especially, murder is not necessarily pathologic : a murderer is not necessarily a sick, crazy, retarded person. Sometimes he/she is, but not all the time. Meanwhile, I think all arsonists are crazy somehow : you've GOT to be crazy to put fire randomly. So, arsonism doesn't only deserve prison but also psychological tracking : in the case of an arsonist, prison is here to protect society from further fires this guy could start, but he is to be cured of this fire-fetish before being freed.
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Re: Death penalty recommended for California arsonist

Postby SPsnow02 » Thu Mar 19, 2009 11:03 am UTC

Julien wrote:If I had to be serious and express myself about this arsonist, let's say before all that I'm against any kind of capital punishment. But still the question remains : is an arsonist a murderer or not ? I say : no, if there is a word for "arsonist" then it's not murder. It's something different.

Especially, murder is not necessarily pathologic : a murderer is not necessarily a sick, crazy, retarded person. Sometimes he/she is, but not all the time. Meanwhile, I think all arsonists are crazy somehow : you've GOT to be crazy to put fire randomly. So, arsonism doesn't only deserve prison but also psychological tracking : in the case of an arsonist, prison is here to protect society from further fires this guy could start, but he is to be cured of this fire-fetish before being freed.


One can be a both a murderer and a sick crazy arsonist. Murder and Arson are both seperate crimes, but when the fire kills people it's both.
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Re: Death penalty recommended for California arsonist

Postby Julien » Thu Mar 19, 2009 11:09 am UTC

Indeed it is. But there are different degrees in murders. In a democracy, justice is made to apply law into precise situations and to precise people. Law is general : killing is forbidden and shall be punished. Justice if peculiar : in one case, there's a dangerous murderer who ought to be punished hard and we should protect people from him; in another case, there's a crazy morron whose problem is fire-fetish, he should be punished for putting fire, we should protect people from the deadly consequences of his acts, we ought not to free him before we make sure he's not into arsonism anymore.

This is a fair, balanced justice.

Most murders are made by people under impulsive emotions, and regrets their acts afterwards. These people deserves punishment. But they are not dangerous, they are not supposed to be jailed for ever. There IS a chance of redemption in everyone. Most murderers already killed themselves when they killed someone : they will never have a normal life again. Letting a murderer get out of prison doesn't mean he's going to make a party and claims he f***ed the system : most of them know their life will never be the same and they have no chance to recover from their experience as a killer and as a prisoner. This, is the strongest punishment you apply to most murderers. Most deserves this punishment for sure. But it's useless to execute them or jail them forever : the jail they have in their mind is worst than any other and it is a perfect punishment, I think.
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Re: Death penalty recommended for California arsonist

Postby Heisenberg » Thu Mar 19, 2009 5:37 pm UTC

Dream wrote:It worries me that someone who was so obviously emotionally invested handed down a verdict on such a charged case with such consequences at stake. The jury essentially had to choose between life without parole and death, and did so while sympathising greatly with the victim's families.

Is the death penalty in use here just to make people feel better?

Yes. Except the families of the criminals. Note the jurors didn't hug the daughter of the man they had just condemned to death.

What I find most disturbing about this case is not the felony + death => felony murder, but the jury taking it a step further to the death penalty. Holding this man responsible for the deaths of these firefighters is appropriate, but charging and sentencing him as if he had broken in the firehouse and stabbed them all in the neck strikes me as going too far. There is certainly a difference between the reprehensible actions of this man and premeditated murder.

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Re: Death penalty recommended for California arsonist

Postby Julien » Thu Mar 19, 2009 5:47 pm UTC

Heisenberg wrote:Yes. Except the families of the criminals. Note the jurors didn't hug the daughter of the man they had just condemned to death.


That, my friend, is exactly what I consider the best argument against capital punishment.

People in favour of capital punishment always argues with emotional reasons such as "yeah, think about the victims of the family, etc". As if the murderer himself doesn't have a family. As if his mother had to turn her back to her son because he murdered someone.

This is not a movie. There are no, or maybe only a very few, purely evil characters. This is real life. In which a murderer is not necessarily an absolute monster.

He deserves punishment for sure. But it will be hard enough for the people who loved him to discover what terrible things he is capable of. It will be hard enough for them to recover from this shock and to find themselves in limited contact with him. Maybe the death sentence should be forbidden just to ease collateral victims of every murderer : the people who loved them.
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Re: Death penalty recommended for California arsonist

Postby Gears » Thu Mar 19, 2009 5:57 pm UTC

I'll ask this again, is arson the penalty for just burning something down, and if people are involved its also murder, or is arson when you kill people in a fire?
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Re: Death penalty recommended for California arsonist

Postby Princess Marzipan » Thu Mar 19, 2009 6:08 pm UTC

Heisenberg wrote:Holding this man responsible for the deaths of these firefighters is appropriate, but charging and sentencing him as if he had broken in the firehouse and stabbed them all in the neck strikes me as going too far. There is certainly a difference between the reprehensible actions of this man and premeditated murder.

Yeah, I think this is what I was failing to intimate.

Gears wrote:I'll ask this again, is arson the penalty for just burning something down, and if people are involved its also murder, or is arson when you kill people in a fire?
Arson is act of deliberately starting fire(s).
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Re: Death penalty recommended for California arsonist

Postby Gears » Thu Mar 19, 2009 10:11 pm UTC

So, if he killed somebody with fire, deliberatly, wouldn't that make it arson and murder?
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Re: Death penalty recommended for California arsonist

Postby Princess Marzipan » Thu Mar 19, 2009 10:19 pm UTC

If the goal of the fire was to kill, yes.
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Re: Death penalty recommended for California arsonist

Postby Gears » Thu Mar 19, 2009 10:21 pm UTC

I really don't see the purpose of a wildfire other than to cause damage. Unless he was a farmer clearing land and he called it in, i'm on the side of "it's murder" on this one.
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Re: Death penalty recommended for California arsonist

Postby Princess Marzipan » Thu Mar 19, 2009 10:32 pm UTC

Gears wrote:I really don't see the purpose of a wildfire other than to cause damage.

Well yeah. But damage doesn't equal murder.

That there are legal provisions that make it a kind of murder is fine. It's legally defined as murder, and it may or may not be in some way distinct from the kind where you stab or shoot someone.

All I'm saying is that there is a large difference in intent between lighting a fire to kill people and lighting a fire just to be an asshole. That the law punishes the later as it does murder is fine given the severity of the act to begin with and the cost society incurs from it. But morally there is still a difference. (They're both wrong, but for different yet similar reasons.)
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Re: Death penalty recommended for California arsonist

Postby Silas » Fri Mar 20, 2009 2:47 am UTC

Princess Marzipan wrote:All I'm saying is that there is a large difference in intent between lighting a fire to kill people and lighting a fire just to be an asshole. That the law punishes the later as it does murder is fine given the severity of the act to begin with and the cost society incurs from it. But morally there is still a difference. (They're both wrong, but for different yet similar reasons.)

But isn't this arson like dropping rocks off a bridge? You didn't mean to kill anyone, but you knew or should have known it was a real danger. Maybe you're only doing it to be an asshole, but the reason it's asinine is that it puts other people at risk.
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Re: Death penalty recommended for California arsonist

Postby Heisenberg » Mon Mar 23, 2009 1:44 pm UTC

Silas wrote:But isn't this arson like dropping rocks off a bridge? You didn't mean to kill anyone, but you knew or should have known it was a real danger. Maybe you're only doing it to be an asshole, but the reason it's asinine is that it puts other people at risk.

The difference here is that the prosecution didn't prove any sort of murderous intention, they only proved he was a fire-setting asshole. Because people died because of his asinine actions, he's technically guilty of murder as well. The problem comes when we sentence him to death for being an asshole. As a regular asshole, this has me concerned.

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Re: Death penalty recommended for California arsonist

Postby Will » Mon Mar 23, 2009 2:16 pm UTC

Heisenberg wrote:The difference here is that the prosecution didn't prove any sort of murderous intention, they only proved he was a fire-setting asshole...

Um, he was found guilty of five counts of First Degree Murder. Murder 1, in most places, requires not just intent to kill, but premeditated intent to kill.
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Re: Death penalty recommended for California arsonist

Postby Heisenberg » Mon Mar 23, 2009 2:22 pm UTC

Will wrote:Um, he was found guilty of five counts of First Degree Murder. Murder 1, in most places, requires not just intent to kill, but premeditated intent to kill.

Unless it's a death that occurs during the commission of a felony. Then all you have to prove is the felony. If I run someone over whilst robbing a bank, I can be found guilty of murder 1 if they prove I robbed the bank, regardless of my intentions. That's the problem here. Giving the death penalty to someone whose intentions were not proven to be murderous, but were found guilty of a felony like arson, or robbery, or sale of illegal drugs.

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Re: Death penalty recommended for California arsonist

Postby Chen » Mon Mar 23, 2009 2:42 pm UTC

Will wrote:
Heisenberg wrote:The difference here is that the prosecution didn't prove any sort of murderous intention, they only proved he was a fire-setting asshole...

Um, he was found guilty of five counts of First Degree Murder. Murder 1, in most places, requires not just intent to kill, but premeditated intent to kill.


Felony murder can often be first degree murder even WITHOUT the intent to kill, premeditated or not. As quoted from Wikipedia "the death penalty may be imposed on someone who was a major participant in the underlying felony and acted with reckless indifference to human life." This is from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tison_v._Arizona.

I would certainly consider lighting a large brush fire "reckless indifference to human life" considering fire personal will need to go put this out and that said brush fires can be extremely deadly even to professional fire fighters, not to mention any other people in the area. I am slightly curious as to the justification in that felony murder can equal first degree murder but other forms of reckless endangerment (that do not involve felonies) that result in death do not.

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Re: Death penalty recommended for California arsonist

Postby Princess Marzipan » Mon Mar 23, 2009 3:37 pm UTC

Chen wrote:I am slightly curious as to the justification in that felony murder can equal first degree murder but other forms of reckless endangerment (that do not involve felonies) that result in death do not.

It's certainly an interesting question, with justifiable positions on both sides. Which makes it extremely aggravating.
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Silas
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Joined: Sat Feb 02, 2008 9:08 pm UTC

Re: Death penalty recommended for California arsonist

Postby Silas » Mon Mar 23, 2009 5:54 pm UTC

Heisenberg wrote:
Silas wrote:But isn't this arson like dropping rocks off a bridge? You didn't mean to kill anyone, but you knew or should have known it was a real danger. Maybe you're only doing it to be an asshole, but the reason it's asinine is that it puts other people at risk.

The difference here is that the prosecution didn't prove any sort of murderous intention, they only proved he was a fire-setting asshole. Because people died because of his asinine actions, he's technically guilty of murder as well. The problem comes when we sentence him to death for being an asshole. As a regular asshole, this has me concerned.

That doesn't answer me at all. Dropping rocks off a bridge (I was thinking of a highway overpass) doesn't carry with it any murderous intention: you just want to scare the shit out of drivers below. But if you kill someone doing it, you're definitely a murderer. You knew what you were doing, and you knew or should have known the risks. Same with the arson. It's not being an asshole that makes the crime.
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