Select Page

Criminal Law
University of Kansas School of Law
Stacy, Thomas G.

I.                    Sources of Criminal Law
a.       Common Law: principles and doctrines of criminal liability developed by judges deciding cases
                                                               i.      Refers to early English judge-made law
                                                             ii.      Relevance: to help determine the meaning of statutory terms
b.      Statutes
                                                               i.      The primary source of criminal law – state and federal statutes
                                                             ii.      Example: KSA § 21-5103 states that “no conduct constitutes a crime unless it is made criminal in this code”
c.       Majority Law: the law applicable in most modern American jurisdictions
d.      Model Penal Code (MPC): a supposedly uniform body of criminal law that states can adopt or modify to resolve ambiguities in statutes and case law
II.                  Statutory Interpretation
a.       Sources
                                                               i.      Literal reading of the text – most authoritative guide to a statute’s meaning
                                                             ii.      Legislative History is used to resolve textual ambiguities
1.      Justice Scalia: legislative history is irrelevant and the use of statutory purpose is unreliable and misrepresentative of the whole
2.      Justice Stevens: legislative history is relevant b/c it is representative of the whole and supportive weight of the analysis
                                                           iii.      Canons of Construction: accepted maxims about statutory construction
1.      Rule of Lenity: resolve ambiguities in favor of defendant
2.      ejusdem generis: a statute containing a list and a general term must be construed so that the general term encompasses ONLY things like those on the list
3.      inclusio unius est exclusio alterius: the mentioning of specific items excludes those items NOT mentioned
                                                           iv.      Other Sources (John Manning Article)
1.      The statute’s purpose or legislative intent
2.      The plain meaning or common usage of the language
3.      Case Law or Common Law
b.      Models of Statutory Interpretation (John Manning Article)
                                                               i.      Traditional Model
1.      Most judges use traditional model
2.      Approach: look to the text first
3.      Textual ambiguity – use legislative history, statute’s purpose, or canons of construction
4.      Approach is unpredictable and can be manipulated by ideology
                                                             ii.      Textualism
1.      The text is primary and commonsensical
2.      Approach: look to the text unless it leads to an absurd result then may use canons of construction to help determine meaning
3.      Legislative history and statutory purpose are usually irrelevant and unreliable
4.      Justice Scalia’s view
                                                           iii.      Legal Process School
1.      Approach: look to statutory purpose
2.      Also use the text, legislative history, legislative intent, or canons of construction to help determine meaning
3.      Approach accepts the legal realists’ view that the judges have interpretive discretion
I.                    Background Information
a.       Purposes
                                                               i.      Public policy concerns regarding what criminal law should provide
                                                             ii.      Helps w/ legal interpretation
b.      Questions Addressed
                                                               i.      The relationship b/w civil and criminal liability
                                                             ii.      The appropriate defenses to criminal liability
                                                           iii.      The nature of criminal punishment
c.       Schools of Thought
                                                               i.      Retributivism
                                                             ii.      Utilitarianism
II.                  Introduction
a.       Retributivism: the “just deserts” view
                                                               i.      Approach is backward looking
                                                             ii.      Criminal punishment is justified as a matter of rational justice, wholly apart from future benefits and costs
                                                           iii.      Criminal punishment must be proportionate to the wrong
                                                           iv.      The gravity of the wrong depends on the following:
1.      The degree to which another’s autonomy is infringed upon or threatened w/ infringement (murder > theft)
2.      The degree of the offender’s responsibility for actual or threatened infringement (intentional > unintentional)
3.      The offender’s general character: criminal history and prior convictions
                                                             v.      Kant’s maxim: rational autonomy of another can’t be restricted to promote social good or compromised as a means to another’s end
b.      Utilitarianism: the consequential view
                                                               i.      Approach is forward looking
                                                             ii.      Criminal punishment is justified if it does better than alternatives in producing future happiness or utility
                                                           iii.      Benefits
1.      Specific Deterrence: punishment deters offender ONLY
2.      General Deterrence: punishment deters others like offender from committing similar criminal acts
3.      Incapacitation: offender is imprisoned or killed to protect society and to prevent offender from committing crimes
4.      Rehabilitation: offender is treated to reform behavior
                                                           iv.      Basic Formula: compare the costs and benefits of 1 course of action against the costs and benefits of any alternatives
c.       Implications
                                                               i.      Retributivism
1.      Considers ONLY the actions of the offender
2.      Vengeance does NOT play a role
                                                             ii.      Utilitarianism considers the following:
1.      Widespread publicity
2.      Punishment of an innocent person
3.      The rate of non-detection
III.               Necessity Killing
a.       Requirements for the Defense
                                                               i.      The act is needed to avoid inevitable and irreparable evil
                                                             ii.      No more should be done than is reasonably necessary
                                                           iii.      The evil inflicted must NOT be disproportionate to the evil avoided
                                                           iv.      A reasonable belie

2.      Benefits: deters unnecessary deaths
i.         Dudley & Stephens: The Lifeboat Case (England 1884)
                                                               i.      Facts: crew is stranded at sea w/o food or water and 2 men decide to kill weaker boy
                                                             ii.      Legal Issue: murder – the intentional killing of a human being
1.      Act: Dudley cutting Parker’s throat and agreement to kill Parker for food
2.      Culpability: intent to kill
a.       Purposeful: the motive of Dudley’s act is to kill Parker
b.      Knowledge: Dudley is practically certain his act will kill Parker
3.      Attendant Circumstance: Parker is a human being
4.      Casual Link b/w act, culpability, and death
                                                           iii.      Defense: necessity killing b/c Dudley and Stephens satisfy all elements of murder – need the court to recognize a necessity killing defense to avoid being found guilty
                                                           iv.      Conclusion
1.      Jury issues a special verdict asking the court to determine the result
2.      Court rejects the defense and sentences Dudley and Stephens to death
3.      Sentence is changed to a 6 months in prison
                                                             v.      Sentence and Gravity of the Wrong
1.      Mitigating Circumstances
a.       Parker was on the verge of death – had little autonomy
b.      Dudley and Stephens waited days before killing Parker – premeditation shows sensitivity
c.       The circumstances were extreme: the crew was starving for weeks – killed Parker as a last resort
2.      Aggravating Circumstances
a.       Acted intentionally and w/ premeditation
b.      Disregarded the custom of the sea
c.       Chose the weakest person
                                                           vi.      Mode of Selection
1.      Dudley should have sacrificed his life b/c
a.       He had a contractual obligation as the captain
b.      Legal duty based on creation of danger b/c failed to repair the ship
2.      The custom of the sea to draw lots
                                                         vii.      School of Thought Application
1.      Retributivism: killing was wrong b/c
a.       Parker was innocent
b.      Deprived Parker of his autonomy – morally unacceptable
c.       Actions were intentional and premeditated – high degree of culpability and responsibility
2.      Utilitarianism: split outcome
a.       Parker was weak, most likely to die, and had no family ties – acceptable
b.      Dudley was the largest person – could provide more food – unjustified
c.       Killed Parker to save lives – morally acceptable
j.         Conjoined Twins Case (2001)
                                                               i.      Facts: Jodie and Mary are conjoined twins, but Mary is weak and living off Jodie.