Michael G. Heyman, Professor Emeritus, The John Marshall Law School (Chicago) .
Due Process Limits on Accomplice Liability
In a prior piece in this journal, I noted some disturbing developments in the law of
By definition, complicity law attaches guilt to the accomplice for the
criminal acts of others. Thus, no matter how trivial the assistance or commitment, she is as
guilty as the actual criminal actor. The notion of guilt for subsequent crimes committed by
confederates magnifies this injustice, resulting in the conviction of the innocent through the
deployment of some version of the “natural and probable consequences doctrine.” The
application of that doctrine results in her conviction for all subsequent offenses, provided they
meet the criteria for natural and probable. Unfortunately, since no functional criteria exist, it
provides a form of absolute, vicarious liability, dispensing with any requirement for personal
conduct or culpability.