Los Angeles Criminal Law Blog

Involuntary Manslaughter in Los Angeles

Posted on: May 12, 2009 at 12:23 p.m.

Involuntary manslaughter is a crime in Los Angeles that people don't quite understand. Los Angeles criminal defense attorney represent countless people who are facing involuntary manslaughter charges.
For example, John Steven Burgess, of Los Angeles, pleaded guilty this past Wednesday to involuntary manslaughter and concealing his victims body in a Los Angeles Court. Burgess, a convicted sex offender, is currently serving a three-year sentence for failing to register with local authorities as a sex offender. Police have been investigating Burgess for nearly two years in relation to the disappearance of 19 year-old college student Donna Jou of Rancho Santa Margarita. Jou was last seen on June 23,2007 and police and Jous family had long believed Burgess was connected to her disappearance, but Burgess refused to speak to investigators about her. While it remains unclear why Burgess suddenly decided to talk to authorities about Jou, he admitted to meeting her through the website Craigslist.org. Witnesses reported having seen Jou enter Burgess rented home in the Palms section of Los Angeles. Burgess admitted to giving Jou cocaine, heroin and alcohol at a party at his home, then waking up the next morning to find her dead. Burgess told police he panicked and used his sailboat to dump her body in the ocean. While Burgess told police where he had dumped the victims remains, several searches conducted by authorities have failed to find any traces of her. Burgess is to be sentenced May 18th in Los Angeles Superior Court.
From a legal standpoint, there are several types of murder, with the differences between them usually hinging on the defendants intent. >Involuntary manslaughter is especially tricky because it involves the death of someone that is unintentional and is usually the result of reckless, negligent behavior, or the byproduct of some other action. Being convicted of involuntary manslaughter can land you in prison for a minimum or two years and a maximum of four. In Burgess case, his best defense is that he did not intend for Jou to die from the drugs he gave her. Since he already pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter charges, the prosecution cannot try to charge him with murder, which could have put him in a state prison for 15 years to life. Facing involuntary manslaughter charges is a serious and complicated legal matter that can change your life-do not do it alone.
Call the attorneys at Kestenbaum, Eisner & Gorin, LLP today to see what your legal options are and begin preparing your defense.

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Komel Soin UCLA on June 11, 2009 at 11:39 p.m. wrote:

I don't feel like it was necessarily HIS actions that lead this woman to her untimely death. How can one control another's actions? It is quite possibly the case that she took those drugs on her own accord. Likewise, it is difficult to prove someone has intent just as its hard to prove something is or is not an accident. It is just strange that he tried to dispose of the body rather than dealing with her death properly.

Leilani Materon (UCLA) on June 11, 2009 at 4:08 a.m. wrote:

From a civilian (that is, non-lawyer) standpoint, what makes the issue of manslaughter so compelling and somewhat difficult to understand is that it is hard to prove that someone did not intend for their actions to harm someone else. One of the most incriminating details in this case seems to be that Burgess has a criminal past (albeit one that is non-violent/doesn't involve any degree of murder) but it undermines his credibility. I wonder about possible motives and begin to question whether Burgess murdered Jou to prevent further strikes against his record. I think we also have to remember that it is quite possible he did not commit the murder at all. My difficulty with the issue of involuntary manslaughter is that it isn't clear cut and defined and the consequences are often difficult to prove (negligence is more complex than it seems). Burgess's disrespect and disregard of Jou, assuming that his story of throwing her body in the water is true, should warrant punishment. I am not familiar with the details of the case but if he understood his actions, if he could plan what he did and understand relatively well the consequences, he should be convicted under first degree murder. He is a grown man and should be held accountable for his actions.

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