Tag Archives: Criminal Law

How Much Does Spinning the Chamber Really Help?

Really? A math word problem in law school?

Ok, here’s a hypothetical problem for you: (Do not try this at home. Or anywhere.)

Let’s say it’s 1945 and you’re seventeen and  just sitting at the lunch counter with your 13 year-old friend. You’re bored. Television is just kicking off and the Simpsons are years away from being reality. So you start thinking. “Hmmm. What can two kids do to pass the time?”

“Well,” you say to yourself, “we can play Russian Poker,” which is more commonly known as Russian Roulette. Luckily you brought your uncle’s revolver and a bullet. So, you load the gun, putting the bullet in the last slot of the 5 chambers, point the gun at your friend’s right side and pull the trigger three times. It’s not going to fire until the fifth time. Right?. Oops. On the third pull, the gun fires, and two days later your friend dies.

Who’d be dumb enough to do that, you ask? Well, a kid named Malone. Commonwealth v. Malone, 47 A.2d 445 (PA 1946). This was a case we discussed in class tonight. Part of the discussion focused on Malone’s failure to spin the chamber in between trigger pulls, which is the proper way to play Russian Roulette, apparently. So, as I was walking to the trainer, tonight, I decided to figure out the difference in the odds.

Malone’s Odds

So, we need to calculate the odds of at least one of the three trigger pulls firing. That is calculated as:

=1 – odds of all three trigger pulls NOT firing

because if all three didn’t fire then at least one had to fire. So, in this case, that would be:

=1 – (0.8) (0.75) (0.67)

Why do the odds decrease each trigger pull? Because it’s sampling without replacement. So, first trigger pull, there’s an 80% chance the gun doesn’t fire. (It’s a five chamber gun, remember.) But, the second time you pull the trigger, there’s only 3 empty chambers out of the 4 remaining, so only a 75% chance the gun doesn’t fire this time.

So, the odds that Malone’s going to blow away a “vital part” of his friend’s body are:


Would Spinning the Chamber Have Helped?

So, the question was whether it would have helped if Malone had spun the chamber in between trigger pulls.

Well… First off, it probably would have given his friend a little time to reconsider his decision to tell Malone to go ahead and play the game. But, that’s beside the point.

In this case, the odds would now be calculated as:

=1 – (0.8) (0.8) (0.8)

Since each trigger pull would be an independent event (now we’re sampling with replacement), the odds of the gun not firing each time remains 80%. So now Malone’s odds of blowing away part of his friend are only:


Well, that’s on the right side of 50/50, at least. In fact, that’s a relative decrease of 18%. But, would that have been enough to change gross recklessness to recklessness and gotten Malone down to involuntary manslaughter?


Semester 2, Week 1 – Done

Well, week #1 is done! Whew! As I mentioned in a previous post, it was kind of rough getting back into the swing of things. The week went pretty well, except in an effort to save my back, I only took one of my Civil Procedure books with me. Of course, we spent time reading directly out of the other two books. And, since I have to read them on the weekends, I can’t just leave them in my locker. Oh well. That’s why they invented chiropractors and massage therapists.

My Weekend

So, this weekend was about catching up, regrouping, and — hopefully — getting a little ahead.

A month ago, I had booked a reservation for Friday for Restaurant Week. Since Friday was the only night I could do dinner, the choices were somewhat limited, and I booked on OpenTable: DC Restaurants as soon as they announced the dates. I like to use Restaurant Week to try restaurants I wouldn’t otherwise spend that much money at. I’ve had great experiences at 1789, for instance. This time, my reservation was at Chef Geoff’s Downtown. I had heard very mixed things about it, so I ended up canceling the reservation.

I stayed in on Friday and got my reading for Civil Procedure and Criminal Law both done.

Saturday was the trainer (that’s why everything hurts!!), and a really wonderful second date.

Today, was reading for Rhetoric, as well as cleaning off my desk.

But It’s Not Over!

Wait! It’s a 3-day weekend! I get an extra day to enjoy.

Actually, tomorrow will be spent first working on my next Rhetoric writing assignment. Then, I need to run to Target and the grocery store. I’m going to cook some chili so I have something healthy to eat this week.

Speaking of healthy cooking, I started reading An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace by Tamar Adler. I’ve only read two chapters, but it makes me want to cook in a very simple, filling, and tasty way. I’d recommend picking it up.

UPDATED 11/21/13: OpenTable asked me to update their link to go to the DC restaurants.