Conspiracy with an Insane Person!?

(Study Tips, Dealing With Stress, Maintaining a Social Life, Financial Aid, Internships, Bar Exam, Careers in Law . . . )
phonepro
Posts: 271
Joined: Wed Oct 14, 2009 8:59 pm

Conspiracy with an Insane Person!?

Postby phonepro » Thu Dec 09, 2010 10:12 pm

Under the traditional bilateral approach... two people agree to commit a crime.. one of them is insane. Is it a conspiracy? My textbook say's yes. But I don't understood. I thought you needed two guilty conspirators? I know both of them don't need to be charged (if one dies or can't be found), but the insane person is not guilty. Also, would'nt it be difficult to prove that they had the necessary mens rea (intent to agree) when they entered the agreement.

How about a person who was forced into agreement and could use the duress defense?

Geist13
Posts: 739
Joined: Sat Oct 10, 2009 3:21 pm

Re: Conspiracy with an Insane Person!?

Postby Geist13 » Thu Dec 09, 2010 10:31 pm

There would definitely be conspiratorial liability (at least for the sane conspirator). The distinction between unilateral and bilateral is not really about the culpability of the mens rea, but is more about whether there was actually an agreement or not. So when the co-conspirator is a fed , he has no intention of engaging in criminal conduct and so in a very literal sense there is no "meeting of the minds" between the two. However when the other person is under duress or is insane or whatever other mitigating factor, there is still an agreement, even if its reluctant or illinformed or whatever. They nonetheless literally agree to the criminal purpose.

That's my understanding anyway. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong since I haven't had crim final yet and it appears as though my professor tests on inchoate crimes every year.

abudaba
Posts: 89
Joined: Thu Sep 16, 2010 11:57 pm

Re: Conspiracy with an Insane Person!?

Postby abudaba » Fri Dec 10, 2010 12:01 am

The mens rea of conspiracy requires a dual intent. That the conspirator 1) intend to enter into an agreement to engage in unlawful activity (or lawful activity done in an unlawful manner) and 2) the intent to complete the underlying crime

The intent to enter into the agreement may be bilateral or unilateral. Bilateral- an agreement is made between the parties (requires both to agree). Unilateral- the act of agreeing (subjective agreement, can be 1 sided). Here we are talking about bilateral.

Next, it depends on the insanity test the jurisdiction uses and the insanity of defendant (D)

(i.e. M'Naughten test) most modern insanity defenses require total cognitive impairment (defect of the senses) or an inability to understand the wrongfulness of their conduct (jurisdictions differ between whether it is a moral or legal wrong).

So think of a hypo where a C (Crazy) meets up with S (Sane). C is legally insane - he has complete cognitive impairment. To him, every person he sees it a tree and while he walks, talks, and lives among these trees he is completely detached from society and has no concept of moral or legal right or wring.

S approaches C and tells him that they should kill X. C agrees but makes sure to tell S that he wants to collect the X's leaves when he is dead. Just as they head off to find X, the cops show up and arrest both for conspiracy.

Prosecutor shows that C had 1) the intent to enter into the agreement and that he in fact agreed 2) that he had the intent to complete the crime (so he could collect leaves).

There may be a counter-argument that because of C's insanity he did not know he was engaging in "unlawful activity" and therefore lacks the sufficient mental culpability. However, mistake of law is generally not a defense to conspiracy.

Of course I havnt read the caption you are talking about but this is one way I can see the conclusion you cited reasoned out if it makes sense.. at least until the holes in my logic are made apparent to me

abudaba
Posts: 89
Joined: Thu Sep 16, 2010 11:57 pm

Re: Conspiracy with an Insane Person!?

Postby abudaba » Fri Dec 10, 2010 12:20 am

I'm less sure about the duress issue.

Although a duress situation would not negate any of the elements of conspiracy, I assume if it is an affirmative defense to the substantive crime, it would logically follow that it would provide a defense to the conspiracy charge as well.

So if you committed a crime because of duress but did not meet the elements required to use the defense, you could be charged for the substantive crime along with the conspiracy to commit the crime

Total Litigator
Posts: 695
Joined: Tue Jul 06, 2010 12:17 pm

Re: Conspiracy with an Insane Person!?

Postby Total Litigator » Fri Dec 10, 2010 12:32 am

Legally insane means someone can't tell right from wrong. However, this does not mean that the insane person cannot enter into a conspiracy. Both the sane and the insane person can agree to the crime, and both can be parties to a conspiracy (as long as the other elements of conspiracy are met). However, the insanity defense is an affirmative defense. So while the sane person is quickly convicted, the insane person can argue that, although there was a conspiracy and he was a party to it, he should not be convicted because he can' tell wrong from right.

abudaba
Posts: 89
Joined: Thu Sep 16, 2010 11:57 pm

Re: Conspiracy with an Insane Person!?

Postby abudaba » Fri Dec 10, 2010 12:50 am

Total Litigator wrote:Legally insane means someone can't tell right from wrong. However, this does not mean that the insane person cannot enter into a conspiracy. Both the sane and the insane person can agree to the crime, and both can be parties to a conspiracy (as long as the other elements of conspiracy are met). However, the insanity defense is an affirmative defense. So while the sane person is quickly convicted, the insane person can argue that, although there was a conspiracy and he was a party to it, he should not be convicted because he can' tell wrong from right.


+1 well put, this is probably the point they are driving home

mental insanity may not prevent a prima facie case against a legally insane defendant, however, the legal insanity may provide an affirmative defense




Return to “Forum for Law School Students”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: mike90018 and 9 guests