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84 Cards in this Set

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Regina v. Dudley and Stephens
Facts: The Dudley and Stephens were stranded on a ship at sea with two other men with nothing to eat. Because they were all starving, the defendants decided to kill and eat one of the other men. The fourth man objected, but ended up eating as well. They were convicted of felony and murder.

Rule: You cannot kill another person to save yourself, absent of self-defense.

Judgment: The Court passed a sentence of death upon the prisoners. Death sentences were commuted to six months.

Topic: Blame and Punishment
United States v. Milken (NY)
Facts: The "junk bond king" was indicted on 98 counts of racketeering and fraud. After a plea bargain he was charged with six securities and reporting violations.

Rule: The judge felt that a prison term was required for the purpose of general deterrence, in the hopes that it would prevent others from violating the law.

Judgment: He was sentenced to 10 years in prison (he served 2).

Topic: Punishment - Sentencing
United States v. Jackson
Facts: Thirty minutes after being released from prison for two bank robberies, Jackson robbed another bank. Jackson was captured shortly thereafter and returned to jail. His principle sentence fell under the statute that forbids the possession of weapons by career criminals. Jackson was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Jackson appealed the sentence.

Rule: The statute reflects a judgment that career criminals should be dealt with most severely, thus the imposition of life in prison without parole on Jackson was permissible under the statute.

Judgment: Affirmed

Topic: Punishment - Sentencing
United States v. Gementera
Facts: After Gementera pled guilty to mail theft, the judge imposed a supervised release condition, which included that he spend 8 hours outside a SF post office wearing a signboard stating, "I stole mail. This is my punishment." Gementera appealed on the grounds that it was cruel and unusual punishment.

Rule: The Court ruled that the punishment was reasonably related to the legitimate statutory objective of rehabilitation, and that the condition did not violate the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against infliction of cruel and unusual punishments.

Judgment: Affirmed.

Topic: Punishment - Sentencing
Lawrence v. Texas (Supreme Court)
Facts: Responding to a reported weapons disturbance in a private residence, Houston police entered petitioner Lawrence’s apartment and saw him and another adult man engaging in a private, consensual sexual act. Petitioners were arrested and convicted of deviate sexual intercourse in violation of a Texas statute forbidding two persons of the same sex to engage in certain intimate sexual conduct.

Rule: The Texas statute making it a crime for two persons of the same sex to engage in certain intimate sexual conduct violates the Due Process Clause under the Fourteenth Amendment.

Judgment: Reversed and remanded.

Topic: What to punish - Protected Conduct
Martin v. State
Facts: Martin was arrested at his home, then taken by the arresting officers to a public highway, where he behaved in a drunken state by using loud and profane language. He was convicted of being drunk on a public highway, and is now appealing.

Rule: To satisfy the actus reus element of a crime, the defendant must act voluntarily.

Judgment: Reversed and rendered.

Topic: Actus Reus Requirements
People v. Newton (CA)
Facts: Newton was pulled over by a police officer. The two became engaged in a struggle. Newton had a gun, which went off and wounded another police officer. Newton was then shot in the stomach. He then fired several shots at the arresting officer, killing him. Newton testified that he was in shock and had no recollection of killing the police officer. He was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter. Newton appeals on prejudicial error in the trial court’s failure to instruct the jury on the subject of unconsciousness as a defense to a charge of criminal homicide.

Rule: Where not self-induced, unconsciousness is a complete defense to a charge of criminal homicide. Where evidence of involuntary unconsciousness has been produced in a homicide prosecution and even if the evidence doesn't inspire belief, the refusal of a requested instruction on the subject, and its effect as a complete defense if found to have existed, is prejudicial error.

Judgment: Conviction is reversed.

Topic: Actus Reus Requirements
Facts: Mrs. Cogdon killed her daughter by hitting her in the head with an axe while sleepwalking. She plead not guilty.

Rule: To meet the actus reus the act must be conscious.

Judgment: Acquitted.

Topic: Actus Reus Requirements
People v. Decina
Facts: Found guilty of criminal negligence in operating an automobile with knowledge that he was subject to epileptic attacks. While driving on a public highway, he had a seizure and killed four people. Decina appealed.

Rule: Awareness of a condition which is known to produce such consequences, and disregard of the consequences, renders the defendant liable for culpable negligence.

Judgment: Affirmed.

Topic: Actus Reus Requirements
Jones v. United States (US Court of Appeals, DC)
Facts: The mother of an illegitimate baby placed the baby with Jones. Jones did not provide the baby with food and necessities and the baby died. Jones was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter. She appealed on the grounds that she did not have a legal duty to care for the child and the jury was not properly instructed regarding this.

Rule: "There are at least four situations in which the failure to act may constitute a breach of a legal duty. One can be held criminally liable: first, where a statute imposes a duty to care for another; second, where one stands in a certain status relationship to another; third, where one has assumed a contractual duty to care for another; fourth, where one has voluntarily assumed the care of another and so secluded the helpless person as to prevent others from rendering aid."
Failure to instruct the jury on legal duty was in error.

Judgment: Reversed and remanded.

Topic: Actus Reus - Omissions
Pope v. State
Facts: Woman took mother and infant into her home, because the mother was suffering from mental illness. The mother savagely beat and tore at the infant in the presence of Pope. The defendant did nothing, but took the mother to church. The infant died. Pope was found guilty of child abuse and misprision of felony [she unlawfully concealed and failed to disclose a felony].

Rule: There is no legal duty to act to protect the child if you have not voluntarily taken responsibility of the child. You cannot be punished for failing to fulfill a moral obligation.

Judgment: Child abuse conviction reversed, and it was determined that misprision of felony is not a chargeable offense in Maryland.

Topic: Actus Reus - Omission
People v. Beardsley
Facts: Beardsley holed up with the alleged victim at his residence and drank for an entire weekend except for Sunday afternoon, while his wife was out of town. At the end of the weekend, the victim overdosed on morphine, and Beardsley failed to call for help. Beardsley was convicted of manslaughter. The defendant appealed.

Rule: Omission is defined as the neglect of a legal duty, rather than a merely moral duty. In this case, there was no legal duty.

Judgment: Reversed.

Topic: Actus Reus - Omission
People v. Carroll (NY)
Facts: Carroll was convicted of child endangerment for failing to prevent her husband from killing her stepdaughter when she was temporarily visiting them.

Rule: A stepmother owes a duty of care to her husband's children.

Judgment: Upheld

Topic: Actus Reus - Omission
Barber v. Superior Court (CA)
Facts: The deceased went into a vegetative state. The family asked the doctors in writing to take him off life support. They did. The state charged the doctors with murder and conspiracy to commit murder. A magistrate dismissed the charges, but the Superior Court reinstated them. The doctors appealed.

Rule: The doctors' omission to continue treatment, though intentional and with knowledge that the patient would die, was not unlawful failure to perform legal duty.

Judgment: Dismissed.

Topic: Actus Reus - Distinguishing Omissions from Acts
Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Dept. of Public Health (Supreme Court)
The Supreme Court upheld the decision of the Missouri Supreme Court refusing the order, that Nancy Cruzan, a person in a permanent vegetative state, be removed from machine that was providing her nourishment. The majority decision, while assuming a person has a constitutionally protected liberty interest in refusing unwanted medical treatment, held that the State was free to require clear and convincing evidence of the patient's consent.

Topic: Actus Reus - Distinguishing Omissions from Acts
Regina v. Cunningham
Facts: Cunningham stole the gas meter from the basement of the house he was going to live in, unknowingly causing gas to be released into the neighboring house and threatening the life of an elderly woman sleeping in the adjoining house. Cunningham was found guilty by a jury based on instructions which charge that he maliciously endangered the woman's life, and were instructed that malicious for this purpose means wicked.

Rule: "In any statutory definition of a crime, malice must be taken not in the old vague sense of wickedness in general but as requiring either (1) An actual intention to do the particular kind of harm that in fact was done; or (2) recklessness as to whether such harm should occur or not. . . ."

Judgment: Conviction quashed.

Topic: Mens Rea Requirements
Regina v. Faulkner
Similar to Cunningham. A sailor went to the hold of the ship to steal some rum and lit a match to better see in the dark. Some of the rum caught fire and completely destroyed the ship. Faulkner was convicted of the Malicious Damage Act. The jury was instructed that because he was stealing rum and started the fire, he ought to be found guilty, even if there wasn't intent to burn the ship. On appeal it was found that to be convicted of the "Act" it must be intentional and willful, or at least recklessly. Due to the erroneous instruction, the conviction was quashed.

Topic: Mens Rea Requirements
State v. Hazelwood
Facts: Hazelwood, the captain of the oil tanker Exxon Valdez, ran his ship aground on a reef, with the result that eleven million gallons of oil spilled into the ecologically sensitive waters of Prince William Sound. Under Alaska statute Hazelwood was convicted by a jury of "negligently" discharging oil and sentenced to 90 days in a jail and a $1,000 fine, both suspended on condition that Hazelwood complete one year of probation, perform 1,000 hours of community work, and pay $50,000 in restitution.

Rule: Held that mens rea requirement for crime of negligent discharge of oil could be satisfied by a civil negligence standard without violating defendant's due process rights under Alaska Constitution.

Judgment: Alaska Supreme Court reversed and reinstated the conviction.

Topic: Mens Rea Requirements
United States v. Jewell (US Court of Appeals, 9th Circuit)
Facts: Jewell was convicted of transporting marijuana in his car from Mexico to the United States, but deliberately avoided obtaining positive knowledge as to whether marijuana was present in his vehicle. The jury was instructed that the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant “knowingly” possessed and transported the marijuana into the U.S. and that the burden of proof could be complete by determining that if he was not actually aware of the presence of the drugs it was solely and entirely a result of his having made a conscious effort to disregard the nature of what was in the vehicle, with a conscious purpose of avoiding learning the truth.

Rule: When knowledge of the existence of a particular fact is an element of an offense, such knowledge is established if a person is aware of a high probability of its existence, unless he actually believes that it does not exist.

Judgment: The conviction was affirmed.

Topic: Mens Rea Requirements
Regina v. Prince
Facts: Prince was charged with taking a girl younger than sixteen years old from her father. The defendant did not know the girl was under sixteen years old.

Rule: As long as morality serves notice that the act is immoral or unlawful, then the defendant runs the risk of crime.

Judgment: Affirmed.

Topic: Mens Rea Negation - Mistake of Fact
People v. Olsen (CA)
Facts: Olsen was convicted of lewd and lascivious conduct with a child under the age of 14 years, however he appealed on the grounds that he was mistaken about her actual age.

Rule: Mistake of fact regarding a child’s age is not an allowable defense against the charge of lewd or lascivious acts under California Penal Code §288, subdivision (a), particularly when the child is of “tender years” (under the age of 14).

Judgment: Affirmed.

Topic: Mens Rea Negation - Mistake of Fact
B(a minor) v. Director of Public
Facts: The defendant was charged with inciting a girl aged under 14 to commit an act of gross indecency (oral sex). He claimed to believe she was over 14. At his trial he initially pleaded not guilty, then changed his plea to guilty to preserve his right to appellate review.

Rule: To constitute a defense the mistake of fact must be a genuine belief.

Judgment: Appeal allowed.

Topic: Mens Rea Negation - Mistake of Fact
Garnett v. State
Facts: Garnett was a 20-year old mentally handicapped man, who was able to interact socially at the level of someone 11 – 12 years old. A friend introduced him to Erica Frazier, aged 13; she told him she was 16. One evening Erica invited Garnett to climb in her bedroom window and they had sex. Nine months later, she gave birth to a baby, of which Garnett is the biological father. Garnett was convicted of second degree rape.

Rule: As a strict liability crime, Maryland’s second degree rape statute makes no allowance for a mistake-of-age defense.

Judgment: The appellate court ruled that they would rely on the tempering discretion of the trial court at sentencing.

Topic: Mens Rea Negation - Mistake of Fact
United States v. Balint (Supreme Court)
Facts: Defendants were indicted for violating the Narcotic Act of 1914 by selling derivatives of opium and coca leaves without the order from required by the act. They claimed they did not know they were selling prohibited drugs.

Rule: In the prohibition or punishment of certain acts, and in looking at the lesser of two evils (convicting innocents v. protecting the public), the State may choose not to except ignorance of the law defenses and institute strict liability.

Judgment: Affirmed.

Topic: Mens Rea - Strict Liability
Morissette v. United States (Supreme Court)
Facts: Morissette, a junk dealer, took bomb casings which had been laying in the open and were rusting, from an Air Force bombing range to flatten them out and sell them at a junk market.

Rule: To be guilty of knowingly converting government property, a defendant must have knowledge of the facts that make conversion wrongful, that is, that the property has not been abandoned by its owner. Therefore it is not a strict liability crime.

Judgment: Reversed.

Topic: Mens Rea - Strict Liability
Staples v. United States (Supreme Court)
Facts: Staples was found with an unregistered firearm, a weapon capable of automatically firing more than one shot with a single pull of the trigger, in his possession. The rifle originally had a piece of metal which precluded automatic firing, but it had been filed down. Staples testified that the firearm had never fired automatically in his possession, and that he was unaware of its capacity to do so. He was convicted of possession of an unregistered firearm.

Rule: You cannot apply strict liability to a felony offense, unless you have a clear statement from Congress that mens rea is not required.

Judgment: Reversed and remanded.

Topic: Mens Rea - Strict Liability
State v. Guminga
Facts: A waitress delivered alcoholic beverages to two undercover cops and a minor. The restaurant owner, Guminga, was charged with vicarious criminal liability on an employer whose employee serves liquor to a minor. The state contended that Guminga was not aware and did not ratify the waitress's actions.

Rule: No one can be convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment for an act he did not commit, did not have knowledge of, or give expressed or implied consent to the commission of. To do so would be a violation of substantive due process.

Judgment: Minn. Statute §340.941 violates the defendant's right to due process of law under the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Topic: Mens Rea - Strict Liability
State v. Baker
Facts: Baker was convicted of driving a motor vehicle at a speed of seventy-seven miles per hour in a fifty-five miles per hour zone, but his cruise control was stuck in the accelerate position and he was unable to deactivate it. Prior to the incident he had it repaired.

Rule: The cruise control must be manually activated and is not an essential component to the operation of the vehicle, therefore malfunction of the cruise control causing the driver to exceeding the speed limit is a voluntary act.

Judgment: Affirmed.

Topic: Mens Rea - Strict Liability
Regina v. City of Sault Ste. Marie (Canada)
There should be three categories of offenses, rather than the traditional two:
1. True criminal offenses, which require mens rea to be proved by the prosecution.
2. Public welfare offenses (not involving imprisonment), in which the lack of mens rea should be proved by the defense in showing that he took all reasonable care, otherwise there is no necessity for the prosecution to prove.
3. Offenses of absolute liability would be those in respect of which the Legislature had made it clear that guilt would follow proof merely of the proscribed act.

Topic: Mens Rea - Strict Liability
People v. Marrero (NY)
Facts: Federal corrections officer was arrested at a club for carrying an unregistered weapon; he thought he was included in the exceptions for peace officers in the statute.

Rule: In general, a mistaken belief as to the meaning of a criminal statute (even a good faith or reasonable one) is NOT a defense to a violation of the statute. "Ignorance of the law is no excuse."

Judgment: Affirmed.

Topic: Mens Rea Negation - Mistake of Law
Cheek v. United States (Supreme Court)
Facts: An American Airlines pilot was convicted for failing to pay federal income taxes. He alleged that his failure to pay taxes was not "willful" as required by the statute, but that he sincerely believed, based on information he received from a group opposed to the institution of taxes, that the tax laws were unconstitutional and they he owed no taxes. He appealed regarding the trial judge's instruction that only an objectively reasonable misunderstanding of the law negates the statutory willfulness requirement.

Rule: A mistake, regardless of whether it is objectively reasonable, may be a valid defense if it negates the mens rea element of a crime.

Judgment: Affirmed.

Topic: Mens Rea Negation - Mistake of Law
Lambert v. California (Supreme Court)
Facts: Lambert, a felon, was convicted of failing to register pursuant to a California statute requiring registration.

Rule: Failure to act may not be punishable under a criminal statute unless it is shown that the defendant knew or should have known of the duty established by the statute and the penalty for failure to comply w/the statute. (notice)

Judgment: Reversed.

Topic: Mens Rea Negation - Mistake of Law
Commonwealth v. Carroll (PA)
Facts: Following a violent and protracted argument with his wife, who suffered from a mental disorder, Carroll shot her in the back of the head as she slept. He then hid the body. He plead guilty and was convicted of first-degree murder. He appealed on the grounds that it was not first-degree murder because of his good character, and that there was insufficient time for premeditation in light of his good reputation.

Rule: A person’s good character, provocation from the victim, and a short time frame between the intention to kill and the fatal act are immaterial if the killing was intentional, deliberate and premeditated. The deliberateness of the defendant’s actions indicates premeditation which constitutes first-degree murder.

Judgment: Judgment and sentence affirmed.

Topic: Homicide - Premeditation
State v. Guthrie
Facts: Guthrie suffered from severe psychiatric problems. Among his psychological maladies was an obsession with his nose. The victim was his co-worker. The two worked as dishwashers. The victim was teasing and joking with Guthrie and snapped a towel at him several times. The victim finally snapped a towel, which flipped the defendant on the nose. The defendant took a knife from his pocket and stabbed the victim in the neck. He was convicted of first-degree murder and appealed on the grounds that it was not premeditated.

Rule: To establish first-degree murder there must be some period between the formation of the intent to kill and the actual killing, though not measured by a particular period of time, which indicates the killing is by prior calculation and design.

Judgment: Reversed and remanded for a new trial.

Topic: Homicide - Premeditation
People v. Anderson (CA)
Jurisdictions that require proof of actual reflection on the decision to kill have had to consider what kinds of evidence are sufficient to support a first-degree murder conviction. This case identified three categories:
1. planning activity – facts regarding the defendant’s behavior prior to the killing which might indicate a design to take a life;
2. facts about the defendant’s prior relationship or behavior with the victim which might indicate a motive to kill; and
3. evidence regarding the nature or manner of the killing which indicate a deliberate intention to kill according to a preconceived design.

Topic: Homicide - Premeditation
Girouard v. State
Facts: Girouard stabbed his wife 19 times, with a knife he had hidden behind his pillow, after repeated verbal provocation including telling him that she wanted a divorce, never loved him, he was a lousy fuck, and that she had filed charges against him for abuse and he would probably be court martialed (both were in the army). He was convicted of second-degree murder. He appealed that provocation adequate to mitigate the charge to manslaughter should include spoken words.

Rule: Words spoken by the victim, no matter how abusive or taunting, are not adequate provocation to mitigate murder charges to manslaughter.

Judgment: Affirmed.

Topic: Homicide - Provocation
Maher v. People
Facts: After learning that his wife was having sexual intercourse with the victim, Maher walked into a saloon and shot the victim in the ear. The wound was serious, but non-fatal. Maher was convicted of assault with intent to murder. He appealed that it should not be considered intent to murder, as it was a crime of passion and if successful would have been manslaughter, therefore the charge should be assault and battery.

Rule: Provocation adequate to cause a person to act passionately and without deliberation should be determined if it would produce such a state in a person of reasonable and fair minded disposition.

Judgment: Reversed and a new trial was granted.

Topic: Homicide - Provocation
People v. Berry (CA)
The provoked defendant waited for his victim in her apartment for 20 hours before killing her. The court held that Berry was nevertheless entitled to a manslaughter instruction, because the jury could find that Berry's heat of passion resulted from a long-smoldering prior course of provocative conduct by the victim, the passage of time serving to aggravate rather than cool Berry's agitation.

Topic: Homicide - Provocation/Cooling Time
People v. Casassa (NY)
Facts: Casassa kills a woman he was dating several months after she breaks up with him, and was convicted of second-degree murder. The killing was preceded by a number of bizarre actions on the part of the defendant. At trial and on appeal Casassa argued that he was under the influence of an "extreme emotional disturbance" at the time of the killings, in order to reduce the conviction to manslaughter.

Rule: The extreme emotional disturbance defense is permitted for the defendant to show that his actions were caused by mental infirmity not arising to the level of insanity, but that made him less culpable. However this does not mean that all mental infirmities not rising to the level of insanity constitute extreme emotional disturbance within the meaning of the statute. The standard of evaluation includes both objective and subjective elements, including the reasonableness of the disturbance.

Judgment: Affirmed.

Topic: Homicide - Extreme Emotional Disturbance
Commonwealth v. Welansky
Facts: The Cocoanut Grove - a Boston night club - was overcrowded after a football game on November 28, 1942. A fire broke out in the night club and many patrons and staff died due to flammable decorations, no fire doors, overcrowding, and inadequate means for patrons and staff to exit due to hidden and locked doors. Although Welansky (the club's proprietor) was not present at the club when the fire broke out, he was still found guilty of multiple counts of involuntary manslaughter.

Rule: Conduct becomes criminal when it passes the borders of negligence and gross negligence and enters into the domain of wanton or reckless conduct. To convict the defendant of manslaughter, they need not prove the he caused the fire by some wanton or reckless conduct. Fire in a public place is an ever present danger. It was enough to prove that death resulted from his wanton or reckless disregard of the safety of patrons in the event of fire from any cause.

Judgment: Affirmed.

Topic: Homicide - Criminal Liability
People v. Hall
Facts: While skiing , Hall flew off a knoll and collided with Cobb, who was traversing the slope below Hall. Cobb sustained traumatic brain injuries and died as a result of the collision. Hall, a trained skier who was an employee of a ski area, skied extremely fast with little control for some time over a considerable distance. Originally charged with reckless manslaughter, it was affirmed at the district court that there was no probable cause for felony charges.

Rule: A reasonably prudent and cautious person could have entertained the belief that Hall consciously disregarded a substantial and unjustifiable risk that by skiing exceptionally fast and out of control he might collide with and kill another person on the slope. This is sufficient evidence to establish probable cause for a reckless manslaughter charge. (MPC Recklessness)

Judgment: Supreme Court of Colorado holds that the People presented sufficient evidence to establish probable cause that Hall committed reckless manslaughter, and the court should have bound Hall's case over for trial.

In a subsequent trial, the jury rejected the charge of reckless manslaughter and convicted only of the lesser offense of negligent homicide.

Topic: Homicide - Criminal Liability
State v. Williams
Facts: Child of defendant parents died when an abscessed tooth became gangrenous, preventing the child from eating and eventually leading to pneumonia. They did not take him to a doctor because they thought he simply had a toothache, and because they were afraid that the child would be taken away from them due to the appearance of neglect (they were Native American). They were both convicted of manslaughter.

Rule: When the statutory standard of negligence is "ordinary or simple," parents are negligent when they fail to "measure up to the conduct required for a man of reasonable prudence (standard of ordinary caution) ... If such negligence proximately causes the death of the victim, the defendant ... is guilty of statutory manslaughter." The court of appeals held that both were under a legal duty to obtain medical assistance for the child.

Judgment: Affirmed.

§ The manslaughter statutes involved in Williams were repealed in 1975. The current statutes create two degrees of manslaughter: recklessly causing death and causing death by criminal negligence. In accord with generally prevailing law, Washington no longer imposes manslaughter liability in cases involving ordinary negligence.

Topic: Homicide - Criminal Liability
Commonwealth v. Malone (PA)
Facts: 17-year old Malone kills his 13-year old friend while playing Russian roulette, specifically pulling the trigger three times. The third pull resulted in the fatal shot. He was convicted of second-degree murder. Malone claimed that the killing was accidental.

Rule: Malice is shown where there is an "act intentionally done by the [defendant], in reckless and wanton disregard of the consequences..." to others. So long as the act itself was intentional, it is irrelevant that the death of the victim was unintended. It is that malice on the part of the killer that distinguishes murder from manslaughter.

Judgment: Affirmed.

Topic: Homicide - Distinguishing Murder from Manslaughter
United States v. Fleming (US Court of Appeals, 4th Circuit)
Facts: Fleming kills the victim when his car struck hers in a head-on collision. He was driving with extreme recklessness, crossing between the northbound and southbound lanes of traffic and going 70 to 100 mph when the speed limit was 45 mph. After the accident, defendant's BAC was measured at .315. Defendant was convicted of second-degree murder, rather than vehicular manslaughter. Fleming appealed that the facts aren't sufficient to establish the malice aforethought necessary for murder.

Rule: A drunk driver can be convicted of murder, even where there is a separate vehicular manslaughter statute, when in addition to being intoxicated he drives in a manner that could be taken to indicate depraved disregard for human life, which is adequate to sustain the malice aforethought necessary for murder.

Judgment: Affirmed.

Topic: Homicide - Distinguishing Murder from Manslaughter
People v. Kibbe (NY)
Facts: Defendants robbed a man, and then left him lying drunk, jacketless, barefoot and without his glasses on the shoulder of an unlit highway in below freezing weather. A short time later, the man was hit by a speeding truck and died. They were convicted of 2nd degree murder. They appealed that they were not the cause of the death and that they could not have foreseen it.

Rule: Homicide is properly charged when the defendant's culpable act is 'a sufficiently direct cause' of the death so that the fatal result was reasonably foreseeable.

Judgment: In original appeal, conviction reversed based upon grounds that the prosecutor failed to prove causation beyond a reasonable doubt. The Supreme Court reversed this decision, holding that one's conduct has caused death if the ultimate harm should have been foreseen as being reasonably related to that conduct.

Topic: Homicide - Distinguishing Murder from Manslaughter
Smallwood v. State
Facts: Smallwood raped three women, and did not use a condom in any of the attacks, despite his awareness that he was HIV positive. He had been warned by a social worker of the need to practice "safe sex". He was charged with three counts of assault with intent to murder his rape victims

Rule: Without evidence to sufficiently support an inference that he intended to kill, you cannot convict for assault with intent to murder. You cannot infer an intent to kill based solely on the fact that he exposed his victims to the risk that they might contact HIV.

Judgment: Reversed.

Topic: Attempt - Mens Rea Requirement
Thacker v. Commonwealth
A drunk angered by the refusal of a woman who was camping to admit him into her tent, walked down the road, turned, and shot at the light shining through the canvas. The bullet fortunately missed the woman, but if it hadn't Thacker could have been convicted of murder. However, the court held that, lacking intent to kill, could not be convicted of attempted murder.

Topic: Attempt - Mens Rea Requirement
People v. Thomas
Thomas fired three shots at a man he believed to be a fleeing rapist. Two of the shots struck the man. Thomas claimed that one of the shots had been fired accidentally and that the other two were warning shots. At trial, he was convicted of attempted reckless manslaughter.

Topic: Attempt - Mens Rea Requirement
People v. Rizzo (NY)
Facts: Rizzo was convicted of attempted robbery. At the time of their arrest, he along with three accomplices, were driving around looking for a particular person who carried a $1,200 payroll, but had not yet found the person.

Rule: When someone plans to commit a crime, and looks for an opportunity to commit it, but the opportunity never comes, he is not guilty of an attempt to commit that crime.

Judgment: Found not guilty by the Court of Appeals.

Topic: Preparation vs. Attempt (Proximity Test)
McQuirter v. State
Facts: McQuirter, a black man, was convicted of an attempt to commit an assault with intent to rape. The prosecutrix, a white woman, testified that McQuirter followed her, and that he only went away when she went into the house of a male neighbor. The police testified that defendant admitted that he wanted to rape her. McQuirter denied that he tried to follow or rape the prosecutrix, that he made any statements to the police, and testified that he had stopped in town on his way back home and was walking towards the colored section of town when the prosecutrix thought he was following her. He appealed on the grounds that the verdict was contrary to the evidence.

Rule: To justify a conviction for an attempt to commit an assault with intent to rape the jury must be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant intended to have sexual intercourse with prosecutrix against her will, by force, or by putting in fear ... In determining the question of intention the jury may consider social conditions and customs founded upon racial differences, such as that the prosecutrix was a white woman and defendant was a black man. (Intent is a question for a jury)

Judgment: Affirmed.

Topic: Preparation vs. Attempt (Equivocality Test)
United States v. Jackson (2nd Circuit)
Facts: Defendants conspired to rob a bank. They had formed a plan to rob the bank a week prior to their arrest, but decided to try it the following week after scouting the bank. After one of the conspirators was arrested on separate charges and told the police of the plan, the remaining conspirators were arrested while driving towards the bank on the morning they were going to attempt the robbery. Their car had a fake license plate, and it contained a suitcase, two shotguns, a revolver, handcuffs, and masks. They were convicted of conspiracy to commit an armed robbery and two counts of attempted robbery. They appealed claiming that their conduct never crossed the line which separates preparation from attempt.

Rule: To be guilty of an attempt, "First, the defendant must have been acting with the kind of culpability otherwise required for the commission of the crime which he is charged with attempting... Second, the defendant must have engaged in conduct which constitutes a substantial step toward commission of the crime. A substantial step must be conduct strongly corroborative of the firmness of the defendant's criminal intent." (the attempt liability test)

Judgment: Convictions affirmed.

Topic: Preparation vs.Attempt - The Substantial Step Test
State v. Davis
Facts: Man paid an undercover cop $600 to kill his girlfriend’s husband so they could collect insurance money and be together. They had several conferences to plan the killing. Convicted of attempted first-degree murder.

Rule: A man does not commit attempted murder in the first-degree when he makes a verbal arrangement with a hit man, delivers drawings and photographs of the target, and pays part of the consideration; that is merely preparation, rather then attempt.

Judgment: Reversed.

Topic: Attempt - Solicitation
United States v. Church
Guilty of attempted premeditated murder of his wife, when he obtained the service of an undercover hit man, was a detailed participant in planning the crime (maps, pictures, work schedules), advised the agent exactly how he wanted his wife shot, and paid him in full after expressing satisfaction with the staged murder. He went beyond mere preparation because there was nothing else he could have done short of killing her himself.

Topic: Attempt - Solicitation
People v. Jaffe (NY)
Facts: Jaffe is charged with attempting to receive stolen goods. Jaffe believed that he was purchasing stolen cloth, but it was not actually stolen. The owner of the cloth had given it to the police for the purpose of catching Jaffe attempting to purchase the cloth. He was convicted of attempt to commit the crime of knowingly purchasing stolen goods.

Rule: Because the goods were not stolen, no crime was committed, so there cannot be attempt. If the thing he intended to do is not a crime, then he does not intend to commit one.

Judgment: Reversed.

Topic: Attempt - Impossibility
People v. Dlugash (NY)
Facts: Dlugash shot the victim in the head five times, a few minutes after the victim had already been shot in the chest twice. Defendant claimed that he thought the victim was already dead. It is uncertain whether the victim was already dead. He was convicted of murder. Appeals court reversed, holding that there could not be murder or attempt because he believed the victim was dead.

Rule: If a person engages in conduct which would otherwise be an attempt to commit a crime, it is no defense that the crime charged was factually or legally impossible of commission, if such crime could have been committed had the attendant circumstances been as the person believed them to be (Same as MPC 5.01(1)).

Judgment: Reversed. Defendant may be guilty of attempted murder, even though the target of the attempt may have already been dead, by the hand of another, when he made the attempt with the belief that the victim was alive.

Topic: Attempt - Impossibility
Hicks v. United States (Supreme Court)
Facts: Hicks is convicted of murder as an accomplice. Hicks was present when Rowe, the shooter, killed Colvard. Witnesses standing 100 yards away testified that he encouraged Rowe to kill Colvard, while Hicks claimed that his statements were meant to discourage Rowe from killing Colvard and himself.

Rule: To be guilty as an accomplice to murder one must not only be present at the time and place of the murder, but must either intentionally contribute by word or by action, or there must be substantial evidence that there was a conspiracy or prior arrangement between the accomplice and the actual killer to commit the murder.

Judgment: Reversed and remanded.

Topic: Accountability - Mens Rea for Actions of the Principal
State v. Gladstone
Facts: Undercover police officer went to Gladstone's home looking to buy marijuana. Gladstone did not have any marijuana, but offered the name, address and directions to the house of someone who did have marijuana. Gladstone was found guilty of aiding and abetting in the unlawful sale of marijuana.

Rule: Mere communications to the effect that another might or probably would commit a criminal offense do not amount to aiding and abetting to the offense. To be guilty of aiding and abetting there must be evidence of a connection with the principal to accomplish the crime.

Judgment: Remanded with directions to dismiss.

Topic: Accountability - Mens Rea for Actions of the Principal
People v. Luparello (CA)
Facts: Luparello was having an affair with a married woman, Terri. Terri reconciled with her husband, Ed, and moved away without giving her whereabouts, while pregnant with Luparello's child. In an effort to find Terri and Ed, Luparello and some friends planned to get their location from a friend of Ed's named Martin by beating him up. After a failed attempt to beat up Martin at his home, two of Luparello's friends returned to Martin's house and killed him. Luparello was not present at the murder. He was convicted as an accomplice to first degree murder.

Rule: A defendant is guilty of any reasonably foreseeable offenses that are committed by the person he aids and abets. (Natural and Probable Consequences Test)

Judgment: Affirmed.

○ The natural and probable consequences test used in Luparello is widely applied.

Topic: Accountability - Mens Rea for Actions of the Principal
Roy v. United States
Roy's arrangement for the sale of handgun, led to armed robbery by the seller. Although the court used the same ruled applied in Luparello, they reversed because they believed that the armed robbery was not what one might reasonably foresee based on the original intended sale of a handgun.

Topic: Accountability - Mens Rea for Actions of the Principal
State v. McVay
Facts: The captain, McVay, and engineer, Grant, of a steamer were indicted as principals, and Kelley as accessory before the fact, for manslaughter when the steamer's boiler burst, killing several people.

Rule: In an involuntary manslaughter case, it is possible for someone to be an accessory before the fact, if their actions contribute to negligence which results in the death of human beings. "Malice" in a legal sense, which is the state of mind manifested by intent to commit an unlawful act against another, may exist without actual intention of any mischief, if killing is actual consequence of careless action

Judgment: Affirmative.

Topic: Accountability - Mens Rea for Results and Attendant Circumstances
People v. Russell (NY)
Facts: Three defendants were convicted of second-degree depraved indifference murder, in connection with a bystander's death from single stray bullet fired during a gun battle the defendants were waging among themselves. They appealed the sufficiency of the evidence since it could not be determined who fired the fatal shot. Additionally, they argued that since they were fighting one another they could not have "intentionally aided" one another.

Rule: Proof of which defendant fired the fatal shot was not needed to support convictions for depraved indifference murder, where each defendant acted with the requisite mental culpability and intentionally aided the defendant who fired fatal shot, despite being adversaries.

Judgment: Affirmed.

Topic: Accountability - Mens Rea for Results and Attendant Circumstances
Wilcox v. Jeffery
Facts: Wilcox was convicted of unlawfully aiding a jazz musician in obtaining employment in the United Kingdom, because he went to the concert and paid for a ticket, then wrote a positive review in his jazz magazine. He appealed

Rule: When there is no accidental presence, but it is intentional and in an effort to profit from, he is guilty of aiding and abetting the unlawful performance. When someone acts to encourage another in the commission of an illegal act, they satisfy the actus reus of accomplice liability.

Judgment: Appeal dismissed with costs.

Topic: Accountability - Actus Reus
Attorney General v. Tally, Judge
An impeachment hearing of Judge Tally who had sent a telegram to the telegraph operator (whom he knew) asking that he not deliver a telegraph to Ross warning him that Tally's four brothers-in-law were following him with guns and to be careful (they were on their way to kill him for seducing their sister). They did kill him and the court held that Judge Tally was an accomplice.

Topic: Accountability - Actus Reus
State v. Davis
When a family friend came by to pick up her laundry, Davis' son dragged her into the bedroom and raped her. Davis refused to help her and lay next to her on the bed as his son raped her. The defendant's refusal to help, and his presence during the rape, "facilitated and encouraged" the perpetrator's actions.

Topic: Accountability - Complicity by Omission
People v. Stanciel
Burgos was found guilty as an accomplice to murder when her boyfriend, Stanciel, beat her three-year-old daughter to death. She violated a court order to keep him away from the child and authorized him to discipline the child despite his past and ongoing abusive behavior. Although Burgos did not perform any of the acts that led to her daughter's death, the court ruled that her failure to protect her from Stanciel rendered her an accomplice to the murder.

Topic: Accountability - Complicity by Omission
State v. Hayes
Facts: Hayes proposed the commission of a burglary to Hill, who agreed, but notified the authorities, after which Hayes and Hill went together to the store, and Hayes raised the window and assisted Hill in entering. Hill then handed out a side of bacon to Hayes, shortly thereafter they were apprehended. Hayes was convicted of burglary and larceny.

Rule: A person cannot be responsible for the act of another unless they had common motive and design. Because Hayes committed no act of burglary and Hill committed the act to catch Hayes, their intended results were at odds and he is not guilty of burglary and larceny.

Judgment: Reversed and remanded for new trial.

Topic: Accountability - The Relationship Between the Liability of the Parties
Vaden v. State
Fish and Wildlife Protection hired an undercover agent, Snell, to pose as a hunter and commission the services of Vaden, who they believed was promoting illegal hunting practices. On the hunt, Vaden piloted the aircraft and maneuvered it to facilitate Snell's shooting game from the plane with a shotgun Vaden had lent him for the purpose. Vaden was convicted, as Snell's accomplice, of taking foxes from an aircraft and hunting during closed season under Alaska law. Vaden argued that because Snell's action justified in light of the needs of law enforcement that no criminal action occurred for which he could be convicted of being an accomplice. The court reasoned that the action of Snell was not justified, but that even if it were, it would not avail Vaden, because the justification would be personal to the agent. The majority also found that no entrapment had been shown, and that the actions of Snell, while unlawful, were not so outrageous as to constitute a denial of due process. The Supreme Court of Alaska affirmed the convictions.

Topic: Accountability - The Relationship Between the Liability of the Parties
Regina v. Richards
Richards hired two men to severely beat up her husband. The attempt was unsuccessful. The men convicted of misdemeanor assault. Richards was convicted as their accomplice, of felonious assault. On appeal the court reversed her felony conviction, because as the accomplice she couldn't be found guilty of a graver offense that what was actually committed.

Topic: Accountability - The Relationship Between the Liability of the Parties
People v. Goetz (NY)
Facts: Goetz was approached by 4 youths on a subway car. The youths demanded money from him. Fearing that he was about to be robbed, Goetz decided to shoot each youth with an unregistered handgun he had with him to fend off muggers. A grand jury indicted Goetz on 4 charges of attempted murder. Goetz challenged the prosecutors charge to the grand jury on the defense of justification regarding the use of "reasonable man".

Rule: The reasonable belief standard for self-defense is an objective standard, which is a necessary part of any provision authorizing the use of deadly force.

Judgment: The New York Court of Appeals reinstated all counts of the indictment.
○ The jury subsequently convicted Goetz on the charge of carrying an unlicensed concealed weapon, but acquitted him on all other counts.

Topic: Justification - Self-defense
State v. Kelly
Facts: Kelly killed her husband by stabbing him with a pair of scissors. Kelly claims that it was done in self-defense, and that she was a victim of battered-woman's syndrome. Kelly was convicted of manslaughter. The question left to the court was whether an expert should be allowed to testify on the effects of battered woman's syndrome.

Rule: Expert testimony regarding battered-woman syndrome is relevant to an abused defendant's claim of self-defense to show the reasonableness of the defendant's belief that she was in imminent danger of death when she used deadly force.

Judgment: Reversed.

Topic: Justification - Self-defense
State v. Norman
Facts: Norman killed her husband by shooting him three times in the back of the head while he was sleeping. The husband had severely beaten and degraded the wife for more than twenty years. The violence had escalated over the last 36 hours and she received a lack of support from local authorities. She was convicted of voluntary manslaughter; the Court of Appeals reversed and awarded a new trial. The question is whether she can assert she acted out of self-defense due to battered woman's syndrome.

Rule: The use of deadly force as self-defense must be accompanied by imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm. If the evidence does not show that the defendant reasonably believed she was in imminent danger, then the use of deadly force in self-defense is excessive as a matter of law.

Judgment: Reversed; found the trial court was without error.

Topic: Justification - Self-defense
State v. Abbott
Facts: Abbott gets into a fist fight with his neighbor's son over improvements to their common driveway. The son was the initial aggressor, but Abbott knocked him down. The neighbor (the father) then came at Abbott with a hatchet, and the neighbor's wife followed with a carving knife and large fork. A scuffle ensued, and all three suffered injuries from the hatchet; the son suffered severe head injuries. Convicted at trial for assault and battery on the son, Abbott claimed self-defense, and appealed on the issue of whether he was required to retreat.

Rule: The issue of retreat arises only when the defendant resorted to deadly force. Deadly force is not justifiable if the defendant knew that he could avoid the necessity of using such force with complete safety by retreating.

Judgment: Reversed.

Topic: Justification - Self-defense
United States v. Peterson (DC Circuit)
Facts: In response to thieves stealing the wiper blades from Peterson's car, Peterson obtained a pistol from his house and threatened the thieves while they were about to retreat. When one of the thieves challenged the threat, Peterson shot and killed him. Convicted of manslaughter, Peterson now urges that the judge erred in the instructions given the jury in relation to his claim that the homicide was committed in self-defense.

Rule: An affirmative act reasonably calculated to produce a conflict which culminates in death, unless renounced, nullifies the right of homicidal self-defense.

Judgment: Affirmed.

Topic: Justification - Self-defense
People v. Ceballos (CA)
Facts: Ceballos set up a spring gun to protect his garage from intruders after some of his property had been stolen. Two teenagers subsequently tried to break into his garage, whereupon one was shot in the face. He was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon.

Rule: Deadly force cannot be justified in the case that it is used solely for the protection of property, particularly when no one is on the property except the burglar(s) and there is no fear of great bodily harm.

Judgment: Affirmed.

Topic: Justification - Protection of Property
Durham v. State
Facts: Durham, a deputy game warden, attempted to arrest two men for illegal fishing. The men attempted to escape in their boat, while defendant grabbed the boat in an attempt to detain them. Long, one of the men under arrest, repeatedly hit Durham on the head and shoulders with an oar. After numerous warnings to stop resisting, Durham shot in Long in the arm. He was convicted of assault and battery and appealed.

Rule: An officer may use all the force that is reasonably necessary to accomplish an arrest, except that he may not inflict great bodily harm or kill merely to arrest someone who is fleeing, but not resisting. If the defendant physically resists, the officer may press forward with such force as is necessary to effect the arrest, and if in doing so the officer is absolutely obliged to seriously wound or take the life of the accused, in order to prevent the accused from seriously wounding or killing him, he will be justified. Match force with force.

Judgment: Reversed and awarded new trial.

Topic: Justification - Law Enforcement
Tennessee v. Garner (Supreme Court)
Facts: A Memphis police officer, shot and killed Garner's son, who after being told to halt fled over a fence at night in the backyard of a house he was suspected of burglarizing. The officer used deadly force despite being "reasonably sure" the suspect was unarmed and thinking that he was 17 or 18 years old and of slight build, under the authority of Tennessee statute. The case challenged the constitutionality of the use of deadly force to prevent the escape of an apparently unarmed suspected felon.

Rule: A statute is unconstitutional insofar as it authorizes the use of deadly force against an apparently unarmed, nonviolent fleeing suspect; such force may not be used unless necessary to prevent the escape and the officer has probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or others.

Judgment: Affirmed the unconstitutionality.

Topic: Justification - Law Enforcement
People v. Unger
Facts: Unger was convicted of escape after he walked off of an "honor farm" while serving a sentence for auto theft. Unger claimed that he escaped because other inmates threatened to rape and kill him. Unger wanted to assert the defenses of necessity and compulsion at trial, but was denied instructions on these defenses.

Rule: Necessity can be an affirmative defense to the crime of escape, depending on the facts and circumstances of the case.

Judgment: Affirmed and Remanded.

Topic: Justification - Choice of Evils (Necessity)
United States v. Schoon (9th Circuit)
Facts: The defendants appeal their conviction for obstructing the activities of the IRS office in Tucson, Arizona and failing to comply with the order of a federal officer. The convictions stemmed from a protest staged by the defendants in order to bring attention to United States involvement in El Salvador.

Rule: Indirect civil disobedience can never meet all the requirements of the necessity doctrine. Therefore, the necessity defense is not available in such cases.

Judgment: Affirmed.

Topic: Justification - Choice of Evils (Necessity)
Public Committee Against Torture v. State of Israel
Facts: In its investigations, the General Security Service(GSS) makes use of methods that include subjecting suspects to moderate physical pressure. The means are employed under the authority of directives. These directives allow for the use of moderate physical pressure if such pressure is immediately necessary to save human life. The Public Committee Against Torture challenge the legality of these methods.

Rule: GSS does not have the authority employ certain interrogation methods challenged by the petitioners. The Court also held that this decision did not negate that the “necessity defense,” found in the Israeli Penal Law, could be available to GSS investigators who employ such interrogation practices.

Topic: Justification - Maximizing Lives Principle
State v. Toscano
Facts: Toscano, a chiropractor, was convicted of creating a false medical report used in a scheme to defraud insurance companies. Toscano claimed that he acted under duress because he feared for his and his wife's safety.

Rule: Duress shall be a defense to a crime other than murder if the defendant engaged in conduct because he was coerced to do so by the use of, or threat to use, unlawful force against his person or the person of another, which a person of reasonable firmness in his situation would have been unable to resist.

Judgment: Reversed and remanded for new trial.

Topic: Excuse - Duress
People v. Hood (CA)
Facts: Defendant, while resisting arrest, grabbed the officer's gun and shot the officer twice in the leg. He was convicted at trial of assault with a deadly weapon. The trial court gave hopelessly conflicting instructions on the effect of intoxication resulting in an appeal.

Rule: People charged with crimes that do not require specific intent cannot present evidence of intoxication if it is self-induced.

Judgment: Reversed.
§ In 1995, CA amended their penal code to state, "evidence of voluntary intoxication is admissible solely on the issue of whether or not the defendant actually formed a required specific intent," including, in murder cases, the issue of premeditation, deliberation and express malice (i.e. intent to kill) but not the issue of implied malice (depraved heart recklessness).

Topic: Excuse - Voluntary Intoxication
State v. Stasio
Facts: Stasio was convicted of assault with intent to rob. Conceding that this was a "specific intent" crime, the court nonetheless ruled that evidence of voluntary intoxication was inadmissible.

Rule: When voluntary intoxication is not relevant to the basis for the defense, except in the case of first-degree murder, a court should not introduce that element. However a court may consider intoxication as a mitigating circumstance when sentencing.

Judgment: Affirmed.

Topic: Excuse - Voluntary Intoxication
Montana v. Egelhoff (Supreme Court)
Facts: A Montana statute did not allow an intoxicated condition to be taken into consideration in determining the existence of a mental state which is an element of the offense unless the intoxication was involuntary. Egelhoff was convicted of deliberate homicide, which required that it was committed purposely or knowingly, after the judge told the jury they could not consider his intoxicated condition in determining whether he had acted purposely or knowingly. He appealed that it violated Due Process.

Rule: Defendant's do not have an absolute constitutional right to present intoxication evidence in their defense, unless it violates a fundamental principal of fairness.

Judgment: Affirmed.

Topic: Excuse - Voluntary Intoxication
Regina v. Kingston
Facts: In an effort to blackmail Kingston, Penn invited Kingston to his flat to abuse a 15-year old boy that Penn had lured there. Penn photographed and audio taped Kingston abusing the boy. Kingston claimed that Penn drugged him, and there was evidence to indicate this was true. Convicted at trial by jury for indecent assault. Conviction was set aside and Kingston was discharged on appeal due to involuntary intoxication.

Rule: A loss of self-control due to involuntary intoxication through the acts of a third party do not constitute a defense, unless the intoxication was such that it causes temporary insanity. Although it can be a matter for mitigation of the sentence imposed for the offense.

Judgment: The House of Lords reversed the Court of Appeal ruling.

Topic: Excuse - Involuntary Intoxication