"Natural and probable consequences" -Crim Law

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"Natural and probable consequences" -Crim Law

Postby croggs » Sun Dec 11, 2011 10:34 pm

Hey guys,

My professor has stressed throughout the semester that prosecutors have to infer the mental state of the defendant from the "natural and probable consequences" of their actions. I am trying to get a grasp on how to apply it. I get that if you point a gun at someone's chest and shoot a bullet, that you can infer "purpose" to kill. From my understanding, you would use the exact same set of facts and language to infer any mental state.

Ex. It can be inferred that D acted with __________ from the natural and probable consequences of his act of ________.

Regardless of the mental state (purpose, knowledge, or recklessness), I feel like my professor would use the same argument and language to infer purpose or recklessness. Am I missing something here? Is there more to inferring one's mental state (assuming there's no evidence other than the act itself)?

I know this is a broad question, but if anyone can explain more in-depth about how they approach inferring mental states, that'd be quite helpful.


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Re: "Natural and probable consequences" -Crim Law

Postby jackattack17 » Sun Dec 11, 2011 11:11 pm

Be careful with inferring intent from "natural and probable consequences."

From Francis v. Franklin, 471 U.S. 307 (1985)"

"Jury instructions in murder trial, which advised jury that acts of a person of sound mind and discretion are presumed to be product of person's will and that a person is presumed to intend the natural and probable consequences of his acts, created a mandatory presumption which unconstitutionally shifted to defendant the burden of persuasion on element of intent once the state had proven the predicate facts, and fact that jury was informed that the presumption “may be rebutted” did not cure the infirmity in the charge."

I'd say focus more on the "knowing" part of "intent," that is, D is aware that he is acting and that his actions will lead to the proscribed result. Hope that helps?

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Re: "Natural and probable consequences" -Crim Law

Postby Veyron » Sun Dec 11, 2011 11:17 pm

Guy gets pissed at his local BofA branch, blows up building at night afterhours. Kills a janitor. Reckless as to the killing.

Guy gets pissed at his local BofA branch, blows up building at 11AM. Knowing or Purposeful as to the killings.


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Re: "Natural and probable consequences" -Crim Law

Postby BeenDidThat » Sun Dec 11, 2011 11:26 pm

It's all about the facts. A lot of it is left to a jury's discretion, which means you should be arguing the hell out of BOTH SIDES on an exam. Of course, an extreme case could be overturned as unreasonable. E.g., I shoot a gun in a super rural area for a NYE celebration, someone five miles away dies from my bullet and some stupid jury convicts me of murder. But the vast majority of the things you'll see on exams will be close calls, and it will be up to you to argue BOTH SIDES.

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