perpetrator of a housebreaking shoots the owner of the premises who is trying to prevent the criminal's
escape. Note since the offense is housebreaking this would not be felony murder.
3. Murder While Doing an Inherently Dangerous Act (Article 118(3), UCMJ). Also known
as "wanton murder," the elements of proof for this offense are:
a. That a certain named or described person is dead;
b. That the death resulted from the intentional act of the accused;
c. That this act was inherently dangerous to another and showed a wanton disregard for
d. That the accused knew that death or great bodily harm was a probable consequence of
the act; and
e. That the killing was unlawful.
The accused must intentionally do an inherently dangerous act and show a wanton disregard of
human life. This is characterized by one's disregard for the probable consequences of one's action or
omission or indifference to the likelihood of resulting death or great bodily harm. Part IV, MCM 1984,
para 43(c) (4) (a). The central theme that runs through examples of wanton murder is a total lack of
concern for the safety of another person.
If an accused points a pistol at someone while believing the pistol to be unloaded, he would be
guilty of involuntary manslaughter if the weapon fired and killed the victim (culpable negligence).
However, if the accused pointed a weapon at the victim not knowing whether or not the weapon was
loaded, and not caring, it would be a better case for wanton murder if the weapon fired, killing the
Another example of wanton murder is throwing a live grenade toward another as a joke.
Someone is killed when the grenade explodes. Another example is flying an airplane very low over a
crowd just to watch the people scatter and killing someone in the process. Recently, some have
considered it great sport to drop, a large rock, concrete block, or even a bowling ball from an overpass
on an interstate highway on to passing vehicles below. The perpetrator may not intend to kill anyone in
the vehicle but his act manifests a total lack of concern for safety of another. So if someone is killed it
would be wanton murder.
Private Jones drives his automobile at a high rate of speed toward a crowd of people, hoping
desperately that they all will be able to jump out of his way in time. However, one individual jumps late
and is killed when the car hits him. Jones could be found guilty of wanton murder. Even though he
specifically wanted to avoid killing anyone, his conduct was clearly dangerous to the crowd of people,
was not justified, and showed a complete disregard for