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Michigan teacher charged with manslaughter after student drowns

People in Lansing should be aware that prosecutors do not need to accuse them of a violent act that ends in a death in order to charge them with a felony. A crime called manslaughter includes cases where a person dies through the reckless behavior of another, or when a person commits another crime without the intention to kill. It used to be known as involuntary manslaughter.

Manslaughter charges often arise when there is a DUI car accident in which someone is killed. A Michigan high school teacher is facing an involuntary manslaughter charge after a student in his physical education class drowned in 2013.

The defendant, who lives in Detroit, was working as a substitute phy ed teacher. He was teaching a swim class at East Detroit High School.

At some point, according to police, a 14-year-old student began struggling in the pool. Classmates told the teacher. Prosecutors claim that the defendant did not take the reports seriously at first, and went into the locker room when it became apparent that the student really was drowning. The student later died.

It appears that the charge against the teacher is related to his alleged failure to try to help the student. If convicted, he could be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison. He pleaded not guilty at a Feb. 12 hearing.

Involuntary manslaughter is a unique crime, in that prosecutors need not prove intent to convict the defendant in an incident involving a death. For most murder charges, it must be proven that the defendant meant to cause the death.

Source: Lansing State Journal, “Substitute swim teacher pleads not guilty in drowning of East Detroit student,” Eric D. Lawrence, Feb. 12, 2014

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