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Criminal Law
WMU-Cooley Law School
Corbett, Patrick E.

Criminal Law Course Outline:

1. Theories of Punishment
A. Utilitarianism
– Based on Free Will
– What is best for society as a whole?
– Jeremy Bentham said to punish to elevate social good.
– Specific Deterrence is to keep specific person from committing a crime
– General Deterrence is to keep society at large from committing a crime
– US v. Blarek: Drug Cartels are a big problem in the area so abating cartels gets overly punished to deter similar criminal behavior
B. Retributivism
– Emmanuel Kant’s Theory of Just Deserts
– Punish according to the law: Commit the crime, must do the time.
– Look to punish the crime, not set an example.
-Punishment fits the crime, not more, not less.
– Coker v. Georgia: Punishment to fit the crime; 8th Amendment says death is too much to punish a rape.
– The Queen v. Dudley and Stephens: Punishment must follow the letter of the law not public opinion.
C. Rehabilitation
– Provide counseling, vocational training, and or punishment to stop criminals from committing crimes again.
2. Mens Rea
A. Importance of Mens Rea in Common Law Crimes
– Morrisette v. United States: Rule of Morrisette: If you have a statutory law based on common law, then you must look at the common law to give meaning to the statute. If statute doesn’t make mention of intent, common law requirement of mens rea is implied
B. Premeditated Intent to Kill Murder
– State of Tennessee v. Hall: Elements of premeditation must be proven to convict a first degree murder.
C. Reckless Murder
– Curry v. United States: Reckless murder requires that D knew of risk to others via his actions. Reckless murder amounts to 2nd Degree murder. Negligent murder requires that D should have known his actions amounted to an unjustifiable risk to others. Negligent Murder amounts to manslaughter. Involuntary Manslaughter is a should have known type of negligence
D. Pattern Jury Instructions
– Circumstantial evidence can carry as much weight as direct evidence, and no special jury instruction is required for consideration of circumstantial evidence.
– To consider state of mind of D, look at surrounding circumstances of D
– Consider the acts that D knowingly did which can be inferred to suggest that he intended the results of those acts.
– Direct and Circumstantial Evidence is weighed equally in the law, but it’s up to the jury to determine the veracity of circumstantial evidence.
3. Crimes of Homicide:
A. Death and Causation
– People v. Duffy: To convict for manslaughter where D didn’t have physical contact with victim, only facilitated the killing with encouragement, you must prove that D’s actions were clearly foreseeable to result in the death of the victim.
– People v. Lewis: If D gives victim the deadly blow, but victim gets another mortal injury or kills himself before dying, D can be concurrently charged with murder with the other killer.
B. Degrees of Murder
– Commonwealth v. Drum: Intent to kill is inherent to 1st degree murder. 2nd degree murder is all murder devoid of intent, deliberation, and premeditation. 1st Degree murder is statutory and is murder that occurs:
– In being poisoned or ambushed
– Premeditated, deliberate, willful murder
– In commission or attempted commission of arson, rape, robbery, or burglary (felony murder)
– People v. Perez: for 1st degree murder – intent, deliberation, and premeditation does not have to come a long time before the crime, it could be as quick as seconds as long as the circumstances of the crime show that the three factors were present.
C. Common Law Crimes of Homicide
– Involuntary Manslaughter v. Murder
a. Banks v. State: If a reckless shooting was into the darkness of a house, crowd, or train you can be charged with Murder 1 and sentenced to die even if there was no intent to kill in the traditional sense as long as you intentionally created, or had conscious disregard, of a very high risk of death or great bodily harm, without justification, excuse, or provocation (a.k.a. depraved heart) – proof of mental state needs to be subjective to D’s mental state not reasonable person’s.
b. James Edwards v. State of Tennessee: If your lev

– Sufficient Provocation can occur with words the amount to seeing the actual event occur (vivid words or such horrendous words)
– Other Forms of Manslaughter and Lesser Crimes
a. People v. Rodriguez: Criminal negligence must be proximate cause of death to prosecute for involuntary manslaughter. D’s negligence must be proven to have foreseeably caused the death of the victim and a person of ordinary prudence should have prevented such an event.
– Felony Murder: Common Law Definition: Homicide committed in the furtherance of commission or attempted commission of a felony at common law (killing, burglary, arson, rape, sodomy)
a. People v. Aaron: Common Law murder occurs with intent to kill or to inflict great bodily harm or with a wanton and willful disregard of the likelihood that the natural tendency of his behavior is to cause death or great bodily harm. In other words, must prove malice to prove felony murder, intent to prove underlying felony is not enough. Still doesn’t have to prove willful, deliberate, premeditated murder.
– Minority Rule- Malice is an essential element of any murder as that term is judicially defined, whether the murder occurs in the course of a felony or not.
b. People v. Ireland: Independent Felony (or Merger) Limitation on the Felony Murder Doctrine: You cannot apply the felony murder rule to any crime that is so inherent to most homicides as assault is because that would preclude by virtue of the felony murder rule, the application a consideration of malice aforethought to the murder. Underlying felony must be independent of the murder itself. If merger occurs then only charge with murder or only with underlying felony.