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Criminal Law
Wayne State University Law School
Henning, Peter J.


I. Introduction to Criminal Law
A. Is there a crime?
1. Is there a statute prohibiting or requiring the conduct? (Statutory Interpretation)
2. What are the elements of that offense: (Statutory or Case Law)
a. How to Prove Intent.
a. What type of intent does the statute require (statutory interpretation)?
b. What is the object of the intent: Is it knowledge of circumstances, purposeful conduct, recklessness, to commit
b. Has each element been fulfilled?
3. Is there sufficient evidence to prove the offense? (Burden of Proof)
4. Is there a valid Defense?
a. Self-Defense
a. Did D under the circumstances honestly believe that he was in danger of losing his life or suffer great bodily harm, and that it was necessary to use the force used to save himself?
b. Excuse
c. Alibi
d. Failure of Proof
e. Legal Impossibility
f. Mistake of Law-Specific Intent
g. Mistake of Fact.
5. Element test in reviewing refusal of jury instruction:
a. Whether the instruction correctly states the law
b. Whether there was evidence in the record to support the giving of the instruction; and
c. Whether the substance of the tendered instruction is covered by the other instructions which were given.
6. What is the punishment for the crime? (Sentencing -Ct and Statutory)
7. Case Planning Points
a. Whoever bears the burden of proof must prove every element of the crime (or defense)
b. If the defense can raise a reasonable doubt as to one element of the crime, acquittal will result (“failure to prove” defense)
c. Defense has burden of production on failure to prove defenses, but once some evidence has been presented, prosecution has burden to negate beyond a reasonable doubt
d. With affirmative defenses the defendant has burden of proof
e. Helpful for prosecution to make element charts

B. Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt
1. In response to the Due Process Clause (5th & 14th Amend.) a person charged with a crime is presumed innocent and the prosecution must persuade the fact-finder beyond a reasonable doubt of

prove all theories with D’s innocence:

Need only introduce sufficient evidence to convince a reasonable jury of theory of guilt despite the contradictory evidence that D may/will provide.

State v Jones:

On appeal, a conviction based on circumstantial evidence may stand where the evidence produced creates a complete chain and when viewed as a whole leads to D’s guilt..

Jury Nullification-Right to refuse to enforce the law against D’s whom they believe in good conscious should be acquitted.

a jury has the right to return a not guilty verdict even if prosecution has proven all of the elements, there is no right to have the jury instructed on jury nullification

Not an attribute of a right to trial by jury.

Judges in some states instruct jury that they must follow the law.