University of Baltimore Law Review


Rachele Norfolk


Currently, there is no statutory framework for depraved heart murder in Maryland. Additionally, there is a problem with prosecuting this specific kind of murder because Maryland’s common law provides very vague and somewhat flimsy guidance. While prosecuting police officers may prove to be a challenging feat itself, it may be even harder when an officer fails to follow certain procedures or act in certain ways through “acts of omission.”

This Comment will proceed in four parts following this introduction. Part II will provide background information on the Freddie Gray case and the common law in Maryland on depraved

heart murder and the lesser-included offense of involuntary manslaughter. The problematic ambiguities in the current law will be explored when applying the common law to the prosecution of Officer Caesar Goodson. Part III will explore statutes that prove helpful and provide guidance for a possible statutory framework. Part IV explores various tort concepts, such as common carrier liability and professionals’ higher duty of care in certain circumstances, with the intention to borrow from these concepts for a successful prosecution of a police officer charged with depraved heart murder.

Part V proposes a statute for depraved heart murder, using existing criminal statutory schemes as a guide. The proposed statute uses a totality of the circumstances approach, combining the current common law on depraved heart murder with tort theories. Essentially, this recommended framework will proffer that when an officer takes someone into care who can no longer take care of himself, the officer owes a higher duty. More specifically, the standards and training to which police officers must adhere, the restraint on freedom of movement in police custody providing for a vulnerable victim, and evidence that one is suffering from a medical emergency and the failure to respond can be examined in this totality approach. This Comment will analyze the Freddie Gray facts to demonstrate how the statute would operate in depraved heart murder prosecutions.



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