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Criminal Law
University of Mississippi School of Law
Hall, Matthew R.

Professor Hall Criminal Law Spring 2013

No Legality Principle

Theories of Punishment- which one you like best? What theory should be applied here?

Test is Comprehensive- ISSUE SPOTTING

· 21 Doctrines

· Will have something from each day

· Want to keep score of topics-

o If you see you’re missing something then figure out a place to talk about it

o Same topic may show up 3x; but no more

§ Not meant to be 3 different long paragraphs

· Will be provided with copy of MPC & specific State laws (will directed to this)

· Issue spotting- some issues may jump out, but others will be difficult to find

o Look at each detail- material details involve an issue (what rule can I match this detail up with? Check these off.

o Complex issues = long answers – thoroughly argue each side

o Simple issues = short answers – one side clearly wins

o Do Not Need- background info or introductory sentence

o Need- issue, rule, argument

o Conclusions okay as long as effortless



I. CULPABILITY – we impose liability only if conduct is committed with a culpable mental state (Mens Rea: Guilty mind; blameworthy mental state)


o Purposely- a person acts purposely if his conscious object is to a cause a particular result (must have a particular motive); intentionally (struggling with decision, but does it anyway)

o Knowingly- a person acts knowingly when he is aware of a practically certain result (knows that result will happen)

§ Willful blindness- not a defense to say you didn’t know

o Recklessly- a person acts recklessly when she is aware of a substantial risk, but makes a conscious disregard to ignore that risk; conscious disregard of a substantial and unjustifiable risk

o Negligently- a person acts negligently is she is should have been aware of the substantial and unjustifiable risk, but was not.

o Faultless (Strict) Liability- imposing liability regardless of mental state/culpability

§ Statutory rape

o If No Mental State Listed- can charge D with recklessness

II. CULPABILITY AND MISTAKE- sometimes a mistake negates the required mental state for a substantive offense (e.g. move from reckless→ negligent; purposeful→ knowingly). NO MISTAKE DEFENSE!

– Categories of Mistake:

o Faultless Mistake- a reasonable person would not have perceived the risk- many people would make this mistake

§ MPC- does not hold D criminally liable for a faultless mistake

o Negligent Mistake- actor unaware of a risk that a reasonable person would have perceived. (picking up someone else’s black umbrella)

§ Negates recklessly, knowingly, or purposely

o Reckless Mistake- actor is unaware of a risk that a law-abiding person would have perceived

§ E.g.: put your coat in the coat room and on the way just grab coat that looks like yours- you know there is a substantial risk that the coat is not yours but you consciously disregard that risk.

§ Negates purposely and knowingly

– Life-saving necrophilia

o D purposely abusing a corpse (having sex with a corpse). D is not purposeful as to raping the girl.

o D makes a (faultless) mistake and believes she is dead b/c her body is in a morgue.

o May not be able to charge D with rape b/c MPC says ‘female’ & female means a ‘living body’

o Mistake is not a defense when D would be guilty of another crime had the circumstance been what he supposed them to be (girl dead, purposely have sex with her dead body). Cannot argue faultless mistake with regards to rape

§ Cannot use the defense of mistake to absolve him of the rape charge when he is guilty of abusing a corpse

o Mistake does not negate liability, but reduces the degree of the offense supposed

§ Although D is guilty of the worse crime (rape), we can only punish him for the lesser crime (abuse of a corpse)


– Murder:

o 1st degree- premeditated

§ thought it through in advance; purposeful

§ special circumstances (killing a police officer)

o 2nd degree-

§ purposefully/knowingly

§ reckless but with extreme indifference to human life

– Manslaughter:

o Voluntary- intentional, but in the heat of passion

o Involuntary- unintentional, but committed recklessly

§ Aggravation- presence of a factor which heightens offense (carrying a loaded gun).

§ Reckless Homicide- extreme indifference to the value of human life

· Extreme Recklessness = Purposeful Conduct

§ Depraved Heart- abandoned & malignant heart; malice

o Negligent Homoicide

· Aggravation: increases the grade or seriousness of the crime

o Elevation of degree of homicide based on:

§ Extreme indifference/Depraved heart- homicide committed recklessly under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life

· Extreme Recklessness (carrying loaded gun)

· Abandoned and Malignant heart

· Implied Malice

§ Felony Murder Rule- D is guilty of murder if a death results during the commission or attempted commission of any felony

· Increase Grade or seriousness of an offense by one step (or more)

– Traditional Felony Murder Rule

o A death which occurs during the commission of a felony is murder. It does not matter if felony is attempted or committed.

o Focused on end result (murder) rather than mental state- imputing mental state to

ide is committed under the influence of extreme or mental or emotional disturbance for which there is a reasonable explanation

b. No specified cooling off period; favors building anger

c. No limit as to who victim is (doesn’t have to be the provocateur)

d. Mitigates murder to manslaughter

i. Killing committed under extreme emotional distress

ii. There is a reasonable excuse for actor’s extreme emotional distress

e. Mitigation available when:

i. D suffered extreme assault or battery

ii. Mutual Combat

iii. D’s illegal arrest

iv. Injury or abuse to D’s close relative

v. Sudden discovery of spousal adultery


Using mental problem negate required culpability requirement. Used as a defense- no limited to homocide

Various Approaches:

· Allow diminished capacity argument (jurors likely to be taken in)

· Allow diminish capacity only to lower mental state from high to medium level; can never escape recklessness

· Do not allow diminish capacity, only insanity argument

For Final- be able to argue that it is “unclear whether D is insane, but there is some impaired mental conditions. Explain the argument under the 3 approaches.


· Allows mental or emotional disturbance

· Will allow escape to murder conviction, but must admit to manslaughter

· Evidence can be introduced to show absence of deliberate or premeditated mind-

a. Not to establish insanity but to lower culpability level

Taking Down a Bully

Danny is well respected in community and served in the US Navy for 29 years. Danny’s new neighborhood is unsafe because neighbor Harper is always on meth and regularly terrorizes Danny and the other neighbors (forcing cars off the road, backing into pedistrians, & even children). Neighbors live in fear and carry guns & bats for protection. Harper goes to Danny’s house to confront him, but drives past. Danny follows and Harper threatens to kill him and his family. Danny shots him in the head and shoots his obdy several more times. Danny is diagnosed with PTSD and claims he does not recall pulling the trigger. (PTSD not an insanity defense)