Proving that it's never a great idea to have a gun lesson after downing some hard lemonade, an allegedly intoxicated wife accidentally shot and killed her husband Friday while he was instructing her how to use firearms.
Distraught wife Michele Wanko, 42, of Parkside, Pennsylvania, is charged with involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, and possessing an instrument of crime, reports Philadelphia's WCAU-TV.
If Wanko's story is true, and shooting her husband was an accident, then why is she still being charged with these crimes?
The most serious charge Wanko faces, involuntary manslaughter, is typically applied whenever a defendant causes the death of a person but lacks the intent to kill.
In order to prove involuntary manslaughter, a prosecutor must prove:
- The defendant caused the victim's death. There must be a foreseeable cause and effect link between what the defendant did and the victim dying, such as reckless driving or neglecting a child.
- The defendant was either reckless or grossly negligent. If the defendant didn't give the amount of caution or care that a reasonable person in her situation might have given, she may be found to be grossly negligent or reckless.
Typically, a defendant can defend herself by claiming that the death occurred accidentally while engaging in a lawful activity. However, in Pennsylvania, voluntary intoxication is generally not a defense to involuntary manslaughter.
Wanko is also charged with aggravated assault against her deceased husband. Under Pennsylvania law, this charge must be proved by evidence that the defendant:
- Caused serious bodily injury to another person, and
- Showed extreme indifference to human life.
Like in the case of involuntary manslaughter, voluntary intoxication is not a defense to aggravated assault. But Wanko may try to defend herself by saying that she lacked any intent to harm her husband.
Possessing an Instrument of Crime
This is a misdemeanor and a typical "lesser included" charge when applied to felony charges involving guns or weapons.
In order for Wanko to be found guilty of this charge, a prosecutor would have to prove that she possessed the gun that shot her husband with intent to commit a crime. But again, if Michele Wanko or her criminal defense lawyer can show a lack of such intent, she may have a viable defense.
- Cops: Woman kills husband during drunken gun lesson (Philly.com)
- Man Accidentally Shoots Self, Wife in Gun Class (FindLaw's Injured)
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- 10 States With the Toughest Gun Laws (FindLaw's Blotter)