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Deadly hiccup cure leads to criminal charge for Killeen man

A judge set bail at $1 million for a 27-year-old soldier from Fort Hood in Texas who was charged with second-degree manslaughter in the shooting death another soldier from the base. The shooting is an example of how circumstances and poor judgment can quickly turn a prank into a criminal case.

According to police, the accused was watching television and drinking with the victim and another man in an off-base home. The accused used a gun in an attempt to stop the victim from hiccupping by scaring him. The police said the unsafe handling of the gun by the accused man caused it to discharge. The 22-year-old victim was killed when the bullet hit him in the face.

A homicide sometimes poses a dilemma for police who must await the outcome of an investigation of the facts and circumstances of the shooting before they know which criminal charge, if any, is appropriate. A manslaughter charge would indicate that the police believe the accused shooter was trying to merely scare the victim rather than cause his death.

In a criminal case involving an unusual set of facts, such as using a loaded gun to cure a person of the hiccups, a criminal defense attorney must have a clear understanding of the facts surrounding what occurred at the time of the shooting. The police investigation reached one conclusion concerning the handling of the weapon by the accused shooter, but an attorney representing a person charged in a criminal case needs to determine if the evidence supports the police theory of how the crime occurred.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Hiccup cure gone wrong: Texas soldier charged with manslaughter," Michael Muskal, Sept. 26, 2012

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