Criminal Law questions

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Criminal Law questions

Postby Vronsky » Sat Sep 04, 2010 4:53 pm

We're using the Kadish casebook, Criminal Law and its Processes. So far the Prof. plays a bit of hide the ball. I've got 2 questions:

Question 1) Regarding Pope v. State (p.194), in the topic of Actus Reus - Omissions.
I understand that the D was not guilty of child abuse (crazy mother of the child began to beat the child, Pope did not try to stop her or call for help).

But is the rationale because (a) she didn't have a status relationship with the child or any other basis for a legal duty, or is it because (b) the Child Abuse statute states: "Any parent, guardian, etc. who CAUSES abuse shall be convicted of child abuse... etc?"

The previous case that is more straightforward is Jones v. United States, where a man was found not guilty of involuntary manslaughter of a baby. He failed to feed the child and child died, but there was not a clear basis for legal duty.

The difference in these cases is that Jones omitted to feed the child, whereas Pope omitted to stop someone else (the mother) from causing harm (beating) to the child.

Thus if the facts of the case were changed to make Pope have a clearly identifiable legal duty, such as a status relationship (just imagine Pope is the father of the child instead of a family friend), would Pope have a legal duty to stop the mother? Thus would she be liable for child abuse?

In the Gilbert outline, there is a reference to People v. Chapman, where a husband who failed to protect wife from a rapist was held guilty of her rape.

I'm confused because our Professor has been focusing on a close reading of the relevant statutes. Felony Child abuse §35A states that someone can be liable for child abuse if s/he "caused ... by act of commission or omission abuse..."

Pope never caused the abuse. The mother did. Pope just didn't stop her.

Question 2) More generally, where is the Professor going? Why are we reading this case about omission and child abuse? The general outline of the syllabus goes something like this:
    Justification for punishment
    Actus Reus, Omissions
    Mens Rea, mistake of fact/law, strict liability
    2+ class hours on Rape
    6+ class hours on Homocide
    Resulting harm, Complicitiy, Consipiracy, Exculpation, etc.

Is this typical? Why is it not like Torts where we consider each 'offense' one by one? Where's the "meat" of the course? I haven't been able to get any old exams because the prof. is old school, doesn't use TWEN or allow computers.

Having a hard time seeing the forest. Is this fodder introductory stuff that should be remember for the principles, or should I be seriously scrutinizing the parts of the Model Penal Code that we've gone over so far, and building that part of the MPC into my outline? So far MPC section 2.01 and 2.02.

Thanks in advance and apologies for rambling.

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Re: Criminal Law questions

Postby vanwinkle » Sat Sep 04, 2010 4:57 pm

The point is to illustrate how an omission is not a crime unless the law is written to give you an affirmative duty to act to prevent something. That's why it's under the "Actus Reus - Omissions" headline.

It's about the "causes" and the fact that he didn't cause it by not stopping it. It's an omission, which doesn't satisfy the actus reus element of the crime.

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