If Supreme Court Says Corporations have same Rights as Humans, Can they be Charged with Murder?

Thursday, July 18, 2013
(graphic: beingliberal.org)

It has been established by the highest court in the United States that corporations possess the same rights as humans. But does that mean they bare the same legal responsibilities? If a human murders another human, they face criminal proceedings for homicide. Can, or should, the same occur for companies that are responsible for someone’s death?


The reality today is that prosecutors rarely bring criminal charges against a corporation for the death of a worker, according to the Corporate Crime Reporter.


The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) penalizes businesses for work-related fatalities, but these always consist of civil fines (and not very large ones, at that).


Recently, OSHA fined one company $28,000 and another $77,000 for workers who died on the job.


Beyond that, OSHA can only refer cases to the U.S. Department of Justice for criminal prosecution. But these “are not technically manslaughter cases,” an OSHA spokesperson told the Reporter.


The official wouldn’t respond to the question of whether OSHA would endorse a law, like the one adopted in the United Kingdom six years ago that allows prosecutors to bring homicide charges against a corporation for the death of workers or consumers.


That law has resulted in 108 homicide cases by prosecutors in just the last two years.New Zealand and Australia are also considering the adoption of similar laws.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

The Case for a Corporate Homicide Law (Corporate Crime Reporter)

Corporate Criminal Liability for Homicide: A Statutory Framework (by James W. Harlow, Duke University School of Law)

Kill A Company, Face Murder Charges: The Fair Consequence Of Corporate Personhood (by Rob Warmawski, Huffington Post)

Supreme Court Prepares to Hear Major Case on Corporate Responsibility Abroad (by Matt Bewig, AllGov)       

Corporate Executives Sentenced to Prison for Asbestos Deaths: Could it Happen in U.S.? (by David Wallechinsky and Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


Stephen Marx 6 years ago
I think we need to go all the way on this thought process : corporations should face the death penalty (ie assets sold off - cigarette co.) when that kill many people, barred for doing business w/ governments or receive subsidies when convicted of a felony (Haliburton) and in case of a draft - serve (provide services for next to nothing while facing daily danger. Anyone know if BP ever face any consequences over the 13-15 people on the Horizon oil rig that died?
Safety Engineer 6 years ago
I wonder if, in the US, corporations will be able to successfully defend themselves from murder charges using the "Stand your ground" laws or claim they acted in "self-defense" when a worker was killed.

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