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Criminal Law
West Virginia University School of Law
Scully, Judith A M

Criminal Law Outline                                                             Professor Scully

Presumption of Innocence
-May allow a guilty person to go free just to ensure that we do not convict an innocent      person.

Owens v. State (1992)

Facts: Owens was found asleep by the police in his truck in his driveway with motor running and an open beer between his legs and cans on the floor.
Issue: Did the court err in finding Owens guilty based on circumstantial evidence? No
Circumstantial evidence places the suspect beyond the presumption of innocence. Many inferences were enforced by the suspect’s clear intoxication and unconsciousness. Of the two inferences to be chosen, guilt is the most reasonable one.

Standard of Review for Trail Courts:
Prove all of the elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.

Standard of Review for Appellate courts:
The Court will view the facts in the light most favorable to the prosecution. The judge is no longer interested in credibility of facts, concerned with legal sufficiency.

WV Jury instruction is favorable to the Δ b/c
·         Only legal evidence can be considered
·         Δ doesn’t have to prove anything, the prosecutor has the burden
·         States must give Δ the benefit of the doubt
·         Probability of Doubt is not good enough

Jury are fact-finders and they are given instructions on the law.
·         Must have at least 6 jurors, but must be unanimous if 6.
·         If 12 person jury, a substantial majority (9/3) is sufficient in fed. ct.
·         If jury convicts, Judge can take away the case if he thinks jury made a mistake.
·         If jury acquits, Judge cannot overturn an acquittal- would be double jeopardy.

Jury Nullification
-Even if prosecution proves each element of the crime, the jury can acquit.

State v. Ragland (1986)

Judge instructed jury it “must” find him guilty of possession charge if the jury found he possessed the weapon. Π appealed the verdict stating that “must” conflicted with jury nullification power. Also said jury should’ve been instructed as jury nullification.
Issue: Is the jury’s power of nullification a right to trial by jury that should be explained and incorporated into each trial? NO,
Reasoning: You can allude to jury nullification but would be confusing and contradictory to values of crim. justice system.
Who should be punished?

The Queen v. Dudley and Stephens

Facts: Dudley, Stephens, and two others went out on ship and became stranded. Dudley being an experienced sailor said the it was customary to draw lots and the loser is eaten for survival of others. One boy drank salt water and became weak so Dudley and Stephens kill him and they drink his blood and survive. They are then sentenced to felony murder.
Reasoning: Controversial because the boy was going to die anyway and it was necessary to their survival, also customary in sailing to implicitly agree to these terms by sailing. Therefore, queen commuted the sentence to 6 months, which they had already served so they were set free.

How Much Punishment Should be Imposed?

People v. Du (1991)

Facts: Mrs. Du along with her husband and son own a liquor store in a bad area of town. The shop had frequent shoplifting, burglaries and gang activity. Du was waiting on two customers when she saw victim Latasha put a bottle of orange juice in her backpack and go to counter. Fight ensued with victim punched Δ, then Δ threw chair, then Δ picked up gun from behind counter and shoots her in the back of the head.
Issue: Is Du guilty of voluntary manslaughter?
Holding: Yes, she had intent to kill but not premeditated and not self-defense. Neither acceptable nor excusable. Sentenced to 10 years in prison. Judge ultimately moved this to probation.
People v. Superior Court (1992)

Issue: Did Judge Karlin err in sentencing du to probation for voluntary manslaughter?
Holding: No, the California Ct. of Appeals ruled that Karlin did not abuse her discretion because justice was better served by probation when one looks at the
objectives of sentencing:
1.      protect society
2.      punish the Δ for committing a crime
3.      to encourage the Δ to lead a law-abiding life
4.      to deter others
5.      to isolate the Δ so she can’t commit other crimes
6.      to secure restitution for the victim
7.      to seek uniformity in sentencing

US v. Jackson (1987)
Four armed robberies, three of which are bank robberies.
Under the recidivist statute, he was sentenced to life in prison without parole. Jackson appealed stating that the statute allows any number of years but that it must be determinate number- not life.
Issue: Did the court err in sentencing Jackson to life in prison without parole? NO, the sentence is permissible even if it is harsh. Life is about the same as 60 years. The holder of clemency power may supply a remedy if to

ute, but π contends that PA penal law allows offenses to be punishable under statute or common law even if not specifically enumerated.
Issue: Do the acts by Mochan qualify as a misdemeanor under PA common law for directly injuring the public and its morals?
Holding: Yes
Modern View and current law -Dissent: The court is overstepping its role and usurping the power of the legislature. Legislature should define what crime is. Cannot jump into common law even if not statutory laws on the books. Common law can inform, and if the legislature has adopted the language of the common law can refer to common law. In order to act to be actionable, statute must have existed when he committed the act.

Keeler v. Super Ct. (1970)
Facts: Mrs. Keeler met ex-husband on a road when he found out she was pregnant by another man and kneed her in the stomach to “stomp it out of her.” A c-section was performed and the baby was dead with a fractured skull and no air in its lungs. Keeler was charged with murder for killing the fetus.
Issue: Was the unborn viable fetus a human baby according to Penal Code sec 187 at the time of the assault?
Holding: No, the legislature did not intend for an unborn fetus to fall under “human being” in the meaning of the statute.
Reasoning: The court looks to common law for intent and interpretation and because the legislature adopted the C/L language, it is a fair presumption that the legislature intended for C/L to be incorporated. Under C/L, must have been born alive to be considered murder. Due Process requires fair warning of the act which is made punishable to prevent Ex Post Facto.
Dissent: At 35 weeks Baby Vogt had a 96% chance of survival. New definition should be incorporated.

Lenity Doctrine/ Selective Enforcement/ Vagueness

City of Chicago v. Morales (1999)
Facts: The city of Chicago, in an attempt to cut their problems created by gang members, enacted an ordinance banning the loitering.
The statute was too broad and did not sufficiently specify limits on enforcement by police and fails to give notice regarding the conduct it prohibits.