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Criminal Law
South Texas College of Law Houston
Crump, Susan Waite

Spring 1997
Text: Criminal Law, 5th; Moenssens, Inbau, Bacigal


D. Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (In Re Winship, Supreme Ct, 1970)
1. 14th Amendment: due process clause . . . govt must afford a criminal “due process” that is fair; crts require proof beyond a reasonable doubt as protected by “due process of law” clause of the 14th
2. Prosecution (govt.) must prove beyond a reasonable doubt D’s guilt
a) measure of “persuasion” by which the prosecution must convince the trier of all essential elements of guilt.
b) Should not convict a man if there is a reasonable doubt of his guilt
3. Party w/burden of proof:
a. Burden of Persuasion: Prosecution (state) must persuade the jury and must negate any criminal defense brought by the D beyond a reasonable doubt (i.e. proof beyond a reasonable doubt)
b. Burden of Production: D has the burden of interjecting a defense; produce evidence to support the defense
Texas Penal Code 2.01 Proof beyond a reasonable doubt
All persons are presumed to be innocent and no person may be convicted of an offense unless each element of the offense of proved beyond a reasonable doubt. The fact that he has been arrested, confined, or indicted for, or otherwise charged with, the offense gives rise to no inference of guilt at his trial.

E. Basic Elements of All Crimes (i.e. legal reqmts needed to obtain conviction)
1. ACTUS REUS – act or physical component of crime (i.e. the “guilty act”)
a. Essential Elements
Category Actus Reus elements:
Conduct 1.) Voluntary Act or Omission To Act (fail to act when you have Legal Duty to do so)
a. Involves Choice or Volition
b. D was “Conscious” at the time the act was committed
c. Mind-Body Connection
d. DOES NOT mean “Blameworthiness” (Mens Rea)
e. Legal Duty
a) Duty based upon relationship
i) Parents to children or sick parents, husbands to wives, ship captains to crews,
ii) Also have a duty to protect 3rd persons
a.) i.e. parents to child; boss to employees or his chauffeur driving the car wildly
b.) captain to crew, crew to passengers
b) Duty based upon statute
i) hit & run statutes must stop and render aid, if you don’t you could be held liable if they die
c) Duty based upon Contract
i) lifeguard, doctor, nurse to their patients
d) Creation of peril
i) if you caused the hit & run you have a legal duty stop and aid the victim
e) do not have a legal duty to aid as a Good Samaritan it you did not cause the accident, UNLESS he begins to help he must see it through to the end, if he begins then stops he could be held liable if person dies

Conduct (2). Circumstances/Causation (for injury to a child that the child was 14 or older; no intention is necessary for injury to a child that is 14 or younger)
i) “But for” test on cause in fact
ii) legal or proximate cause of result
iii) that the act or omission to act did indeed cause the death
iv) must be a direct link b/w the act and the result (death, theft, etc)
Result (3). Result (for murder . . . death resulted)

b. People v. Newton (Actus Reus: Unconsiousness=NO Actus Reus)
1) Police officer killing while unconscious (shot to stomach)
2) Can a reflex action by D be a voluntary actus reus? NO.
3) Unconscious Defense [also, “Automatism”]. . . where not self-induced (e.g. alcohol), unconsciousness is a complete defense to a charge of criminal homicide bc/element of voluntary act is not met.

Rule: Unconsciousness is a “complete defense” to a charge of homicide b/c it negates capacity to commit any crime at all
a) Intoxication that is self-induced & voluntary is NOT unconsciousness & is not a defense
b) Unconsciousness is where the D acts but is not conscious of acting
c) It is a complete defense b/c voluntary act is not met b/c would not have control over your body’s movement; so, the crime cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt
d) Reflex is not a voluntary act under Actus reus
Note: D was charged with murder but found guilty of voluntary manslaughter originally?
a) always charge with the highest possible crime (in this case murder) and the jury can find the D guilty of a lesser charge b/c (Tier-step approach)
1. the Actus Reus are the same
2. the Mens Rea is a “less culpable” than the higher charge so it is covered

c. Davis v. Commonwealth (Actus Reus: Omission to Act-Legal Duty)
1) Death of senile mother; D was found guilty for “Criminal Negligence” in failing to provide (Duty to care for mother) her mother with heat, food and other necessities
2) Issue: Did D have a legal duty and if so did she breech that duty
3) Legal Duty is:
i) one imposed by law or by contract
ii) an act to perform or an omission to perform
4) Can a “failure to act” or omission to act be an Actus Reus if a death results?
i) Only if you have a Legal DUTY TO ACT;
ii) you BREACH that Duty by not acting
5) if death results from an omission
i) malicious omission (must show malice) = murder
ii) no malice = criminally negligent = involuntary manslaughter

6) How does duty arise? SCRAP
(S)tatute (e.g. stop & render aid, duty to warn, good Samaritan)
ex: failing to file income tax return, violates federal statute
(C)ontractual Duty
Express K (e.g. lifeguard, day care center)
(R)elationship duties (e.g. parents-children, landowner-invitee)

3. Recklessness
4. Negligence

c. State v. Perry (men rea)
Mens Rea must be proved subjectively, it is a subjective test, what was the D actually thinking
(1) Veteran flasher

e. TEXAS PENAL CODE § 6.03. Definitions of Culpable Mental States.
(a) A person acts intentionally when it is his conscious objective OR desire to engage in the conduct OR cause the result.

(b) A person acts knowingly when he is aware of the nature of his conduct and is reasonably certain to cause the result.

(c) A person acts recklessly when he is aware of but consciously disregards a substantial AND unjustifiable risk. The risk must be of such a nature AND degree that its disregard constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that an ordinary person would exercise under all the circumstances as viewed from the actor’s standpoint.

(d) A person acts with criminal negligence when he ought to be aware of a substantial AND unjustifiable risk that the circumstances exist OR the result will occur. The risk must be of such a nature AND degree that the failure to perceive it constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that an ordinary person would exercise under all the circumstances as viewed from the actor’s standpoint.

f. Texas (follows Model Penal Code) Tx.Pen.Code § 6.03 Summary:
(1) Intent (a conscious desire to engage in that conduct or to cause the result)

(2) Knowledge (awareness of reasonable certainty)

Degree of Culpability

(3) Recklessness (grossly unreasonable conduct; awareness of risk)
“Consciously disregards a substantial & justifiable risk”
(a.) Conscious disregard of a risk = subjective test
(b.) Substantial & Unjustifiable = objective (reasonableness) test
(4) Negligence (grossly unreasonable conduct; lack of awareness of risk)
(a.) Solely based on Objective test (reasonableness)

II. HOMICIDE (death of a man)
A. History of Common Law Murder & Manslaughter

Common Law:
Express Malice:
(1) D intended to kill victim

Implied Malice: (inferred by conduct)