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Criminal Law
Wayne State University Law School
Dillof, Anthony M.


A. Proof beyond a reasonable doubt
1.   Types of Proof: Direct, Circumstantial, Inferences/common sense
Davis v. United States: The burden of proof is on the prosecution from the beginning to the end—defendant does not have to prove anything
In Re Winship: Cornerstone of criminal law: Proof beyond a reasonable doubt and presumption of innocence
US v. Jackson:
Aaron Jackson could not be charged with possession of a firearm by the government’s evidence of a prison certificate for Aaron Jackson, since there could be more than one Aaron Jackson. Jackson was not required to say anything in his defense
The test for determining a challenge to the sufficiency asks whether a “rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt”
The presumption of innocence requires that the accused be acquitted so long as the government has not proved every element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt, without any requirement that the accused offer evidence in his defense
B. Theories of punishment
The Queen v. Dudley and Stevens
Men were stranded in a boat and killed and ate a guy
The men tried to use the necessity defense
The men were convicted—there is a clear law against murder, if you do it, you will be punished, you cannot make excuses
A crime is a moral condemnation of the community—what you did was wrong!
Theories of Punishment
C. Sentencing
State v. Jensen
Woman injected her ex-husband’s wife with insulin and watched her die
In deciding her sentencing, the court considered:
i.      Nature of the offense
ii.      Character of the offender
iii.      Protection of public interest
A sentence is reasonable if it accomplishes the objectives of protecting society, and achieving the goals of deterrence, rehabilitation, or retribution
Blakely v. Washington, p25, the judge cannot use facts that were not admitted or proven at trial in making sentencing decisions
Proof in sentencing: preponderance of the evidence
D. Interpreting criminal Statutes
Sources of the criminal law
Common law
Statutes—normally statutes have eliminated the ability of courts to create common law
Model Penal Code—followed in part or in whole in many states
Interpreting Criminal S

ature did not intend to change the meaning of the term of “felonious taking” with respect to the requirement of asportation.
The usual presumption is that the legislature intended the same construction as in a previous statute unless a contrary intent is clearly stated
Also, if a term known to common law has not been otherwise defined by statute, it is assumed that the common law meaning was intended
State v. Donaldson
Defendant broke into a van, hotwired it, all he had to do was engage the starter when the police arrived and he ran away
He never moved the van
The statute said that “A person commits theft when he or she takes possession or control of the property of another, or property in the possession of another, with the intent to deprive the other thereof.”
Did the defendant possess or control the van? The court said yes.
E. Statutory defenses
State v. Porelle:
Man convicted of stalking because he parked his car outside his ex-wife’s aunt’s house and followed her car for some distance