The Kentucky Supreme Court recently upheld an unusual manslaughter conviction. The case arose in Fayette County where Binta Baraka was charged with manslaughter after her father, Brutus Price, died of a heart attack. Father and daughter were fighting when Brutus, a thin and frail man, collapsed.
During a pre-trial hearing, the defense sought to exclude the prosecution's expert, a state medical examiner, who intended to testify that Brutus was a victim of "homicide by heart attack". According to the defense, the doctor's testimony was unreliable and invaded the province of the jury to determine whether Brutus died as the result of homicide. The trial court ruled that the testimony could be properly admitted. Binta pled guilty and then appealed this issue to the Kentucky Supreme Court.
The Court affirmed Binta's conviction. In it's opinion, the Court noted that the term "homicide", does not necessarily imply that criminal act occurred. In fact, the term "homicide" is usually defined as the killing of a human being by another. Kentucky law excuses many forms of homicide, such as killings in self-defense, defense of others, or by accident. Thus, simply permitting the medical examiner to characterize Brutus's death as "homicide" did not imply that Binta had committed an offense. In fact, in Kentucky, there is no crime of simple "homicide".