Criminal Law Outline
1. Regina v. Dudley and Stevens:
a. Rule: Killing another person not in self-defense is murder (from class).
2. Spelunking Explorers:
3. Notes from 08/26/2013
a. Elements of Disorderly Conduct/ Cruel and Unusual Punishment? Cox Case interpreting California Constitution.
i. Sundance: chronic alcoholics were punished with 6 month incarcerations. California Supreme Court held that the 6 month incarceration was not excessive.
ii. Cox Case: shocks the conscience test for determining if a punishment is cruel and unusual.
iii. Robinson v. California?: It is cruel and unusual punishment to impose punishments on someone for the crime of addiction or for being addicted.
iv. Powell v. Texas:
b. 8th Amendment Proportionality: Most often in capital cases; Supreme Court is active in regulating who is eligible and what types of conduct constitute capital crimes.
i. In the non-capital context, longer sentences are more often upheld. Ewing upheld a long sentence for petty theft that was inflicted because it was the defendant’s third strike. States are generally not incarcerating as long as they were, primarily because the state cannot afford the prison budget.
c. Nash case. Sherman act.
i. Elements of Sherman Act (See notes after Nash case).
1. IN restraint of trade or commerce
2. Among the several state or a foreign nation
3. Contract in the form of trust or conspiracy.
ii. Void for Vagueness Doctrine: a statute cannot be so vague as to leave to the imaginations of people what is prohibited.
iii. Start Class on Wednesday with draft statutes and continue reading. Last case hit on is Papachristu and Morales.
1. Concerns: Certain categories of people might be targeted by law enforcement/ discriminated; ignorance of the law is generally no excuse but a broad statute will mean people…
iv. Chicago v. Morales: Ordinance in Morales was an anti-gang ordinance, but it was not a loitering statute. Violation was if a group was told to disperse by a law enforcement officer and the individual did not move on.
4. Chapter 2: Defining Criminal Conduct
a. Conventional Definition: a voluntary, affirmative act that causes harm, done with culpable intent that coincides with the act, and defined by statute to be a crime.
1. Legislators are not required to explain or justify their choices when drafting a statute. So the law of criminal conduct fits the principled definition given above if, and only if, legislators decide to stick to the relevant principles.
2. Voluntary Acts: Two propositions under this definition render it void. First, save for a few carefully defined exceptions, no one may be convicted for failing to act, but only for acting. This is incorrect. In cases where individuals had a legal duty to act, such as care for an individual under their guardianship, they are required to act. The failure then, is a criminal offense which contradicts the conventional definition. Second, no one may be punished for conduct that was not freely chosen. This fails because drug addicts buy and use illegal drugs due to the compulsion of addiction, not because they freely chose to engage in the behavior.
a. Omissions: possession of drugs may not be an act where someone walks up to you and puts them in your pocket to hold. The crime then would be failing to dispose.
3. Robinson v. California: Statute in California penalized addiction and defendant was convicted.
4. Powell v. Texas: Plurality by Justice Marshall. (One of the first opinions he issued). Justice White’s concurrence- cannot be guilty of addiction but he could go home. Leaving the house was the voluntary act (choosing to be in public).
b. Institutional Practice Definition: A crime is any combination of conduct and intent that violates criminal statute, as enforced by a prosecutor and interpreted by a court.
c. Interpreting Conduct In Terms of Criminal Statutes
i. Criminal conduct is defined by statutes subject to judicial interpretation.
ii. Greater and Lesser Crimes:
1. No significant role in most areas of the law. (Civil Cases- plaintiff is entitled to only one recovery regardless of the number of legal theories presented).
2. Criminal law is exception: the more severe the crime the more severe the punishment. If defendant can be convicted of aiding and abetting a suicide, their sentence will be substantially less than if they are convicted of murder.
3. Measure of Punishment depends primarily on the seriousness of the crime, not the measure of harm the defendant may or may not have caused.
4. In civil claims, the line is drawn between legal liability or not. In criminal cases, the line is often drawn between more criminal liability and less.
5. Defendants do not necessary want only narrow interpretations of statutes. A defendant may want a broad interpretation of a statute of a lesser crime so the evidence fits that crime and he can be sentenced as such. A narrow interpretation may result in applying a more serious criminal statute that results in a more serious criminal punishment.
iii. In Re Joseph G.
a. In juvenile court, no right to jury trial because the primary role of juvenile court is to rehabilitate. If charged as an adult in Georgia, funneled into adult system.
b. Cannot be convicted of both murder and assisted suicide. California statute operates to exclude one if convicted of the other. Can be guilty of more than one offense.
c. Defense is arguing for an exception to a COURT imposed exception which is different than arguing for an exception to the statutory language. By creating an exception to a COURT stated rule as opposed to a LEGISLATURE stated rule, courts stand on stronger grounds. If it was an exception to a statute, then you enter separation of power concerns.
2. Issue: Whether the trial court correctly sustained the defendant’s murder charge where engaged in a simultaneous act of suicide, or a suicide pact, with the deceased.
a. Genuine suicide pact by driving a car over a cliff.
b. Before incident: Minor and Deceased both told friends of intent to fly off the cliff meaning they intended to kill themselves.
c. Deceased repeatedly urged minor “let’s go, let’s go”. Shook hands with friends and departed.
d. Minor and Deceased proceeded up the hill past the cliff, turned around and drove over the steep cliff. Witnesses say no brake lights flashed. Investigators concluded no defect in steering or brake mechanisms. No skid marks but there was a gouge in the pavement indicating the car had gone straight over the cliff.
e. Deceased obviously was killed and minor sustained serious injuries.
f. After the crash, the minor told friend he had a quart (of beer) before the incident. Also told friend he had no reason to drive off cliff, that it was stupid, but that he did it on purpose.
a. Suicide is not a crime.
b. Attempted suicide is not a crime. The attempt to commit suicide is looked at as a symptom of mental illness.
c. States have imposed a unique (sui generis) rule for aiding, abetting and advising suicide.
d. California Statute: Every person who deliberately aids, or advises or encourages another to commit suicide is guilty of a felony.
i. People v. Matlock: Defendant convicted of murder and robbery. Def admitted strangling victim and taking money; contends he did so at victim’s insistence who was dying and had been convicted of a federal crime. Held: Defendants active participation in the final overt act precluded the court from applying the aiding suicide statute. (Holding comes from an Oregon decision People v. Bouse page 58 towards bottom).
ii. Active/Passive distinction: if the defendant merely furnishes the means, he is guilty of aiding a suicide; if he actively participates in the death of the suicide victim, he is guilty of murder.
e. Active/Passive distinction does not apply to a defendant-survivor of a suicide pact where the participants attempt suicide in a single, simultaneous act, such as driving a car off the cliff. It is better fashioned as a double attempted suicide.
i. Punishment would serve no deterrent purpose, hinder medical treatment and is uselessly cruel and would only strengthen the will to succeed in the act of self-destruction.
f. At common law, the survivor was guilty of murder because there is presumption that the survivor may have entered the pact in less than
statute (exculpatory no doctrine) [Also argued prosecutorial abuse]. Third Circuit rejected the doctrine and defendant appealed.
1. Issue: Whether there is an exception to criminal liability for false statements that consists of a mere denial of wrongdoing.
a. Statute (Page 69)
b. Courts may not create their own limitations on legislation, no matter how alluring the policy argument for doing so and no matter how widely the blame is spread.
3. Holding: Rejected Exculpatory no Doctrine.
a. Souter: Does not agree with majority’s dismissal of petitioner’s claim that the act would result in widespread prosecutorial abuse.
b. Ginsburg: Believes unqualified denial (exculpatory no) fits framework of statute. Believes the statute allows prosecutors to manufacture crimes. Notes that if attorney was present after showing of evidence, attorney would have stated “strike that, I plead not guilty.” [Me- Seriously though- how is this any different from simply saying no. The operation of either phrase is to deny wrongdoing and certainly appears to be a mere exercise of the right against self-incrimination].
a. Stevens: Mere fact that a false denial fits within the terms of the statute not sufficient to reject a well-settled interpretation of the statute. The literal text of a statute can often times be broader than Congress intended. For instance, the statute before the court, read literally, would make it a felony for a narcotics undercover officer to make a false statement to a drug peddler, but certainly Congress did not intend the statute to operate in that manner.
6. Note- Rule of Lenity did not operate to prevent the defendant’s conviction.
iii. United States v. Bronston (Note on page 74): Perjury charge. Defendant was asked if he had Swiss bank accounts and he gave a literally truthful answer,, but one that was unresponsive to the question and he was convicted of perjury. Government argued that unresponsive answers that imply false propositions fall under the statute. Supreme Court disagreed. The statute criminalizes false statements, not statements that imply false propositions. It is the lawyer’s responsibility to recognize when a witness gives an answer that evades the question and to flush out the truth.
iv. Note 3, Page 75: Statutory text wins in both Brogan and Bronston. Federal judges’ job is to apply the laws Congress writes, not to rewrite those laws to suit judges sensibilities.
v. Notes on the Rule of Lenity
1. Rule of Lenity and Brogan: Rule does not apply because the relevant ambiguity did not come from the statute, but judicial interpretation of the statute?
2. Even where language is unclear, lenity arguments rarely succeed.
3. Some ambiguity is not sufficient to trigger Rule of Lenity. To invoke the rule, there must be grievous ambiguity and even then, when applying the rule of lenity, it does not automatically allow a defendant to win.
vi. United States v. Wiltberger: Statute bars manslaughter on high seas and murder in rivers, etc. Defendant committed manslaughter in river basin in China. Charged under manslaughter statute and government argued that the statute should be construed to include the place descriptions included in the murder statute in a different section. Court under Marshall disagreed. Where there is no ambiguity in the words, there is no room for construction. While Congress no doubt intended to penalize the behaviors similarly, such intent is not inherent in the words of the statute. It would be dangerous to assume that a case within the reasons of a statute also falls within its provisions, no matter that it is not enumerated in the statute.