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Make guilt by association stick

In Utah, an accomplice to a crime assumes responsibility for the outcome of illegal actions even if he or she does not do the actual dirty work. That principle should stand - especially if the crime results in death.

"Vicarious liability" is a legal principle rooted in common law that makes common sense. It should continue to be valid in considering punishment for crimes involving more than one perpetrator, despite a court challenge to the contrary.A Salt Lake defense attorney has challenged this longstanding notion. The case in question involves two men charged with robbing and murdering a drug dealer four months ago. One of the men faces the death penalty for being the trigger man; the other is charged with murder because he was with the shooter and knew he planned to rob the victim.

The state is charging the second man with murder on the basis of vicarious liability - the accomplice, if convicted, is as guilty as the alleged perpetrator.

That is sound legal logic that should not be overturned. To do so would open a floodgate of appeals from those convicted and incarcerated as accomplices to crimes.

Those people, and others who assist in serious wrongdoings, should pay a price for their behaviors and for unforeseen incidents that stem from them.

The prosecution's argument in the case in question contends it only needs to show the accomplice participated in the crime that led to the victim's death. The intended act of robbery led to murder, and if guilty, both defendants should pay for that heinous crime.

In other words, driving the getaway car in a bank robbery is as serious as walking into the bank and carrying out the cash. If someone is injured or killed in that process, all responsible parties share guilt.

That fact should never change.