Quick Crim Question.

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ajaxconstructions
Posts: 248
Joined: Thu May 10, 2012 12:24 am

Re: Quick Crim Question.

Postby ajaxconstructions » Thu May 10, 2012 12:18 pm

How exactly will the mistake of fact help with regards to the drowning?

If the mistake was reasonable does that mean he gets away with murder?

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Richie Tenenbaum
Posts: 2162
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 6:17 am

Re: Quick Crim Question.

Postby Richie Tenenbaum » Thu May 10, 2012 1:15 pm

ajaxconstructions wrote:How exactly will the mistake of fact help with regards to the drowning?

If the mistake was reasonable does that mean he gets away with murder?


Mistake of fact can often be a mistaken path to go down when the issue is really just did the defendant have the requisite mens rea.

Say I purposefully shoot at a tree stump and hit it. Turns out it was a human being. Under MPC (and most everywhere else), the real question is did I act with purpose, knowledge, recklessness, or criminal negligence in respect to the death of the human being. If I really had zero clue that is was a human being, then the first three should be off the table (since they all require a subjective awareness), and the question becomes an objective one under criminal negligence.

So, to answer your question if a reasonable person would NOT have been aware that a substantial and unjustifiable risk of causing a person's death could result from throwing the corpse into lake, then he should not be guilty of homicide. But this really isn't a problem because what he SHOULD be guilty of is attempted murder. If you think that failed attempts like this should be punished the same as completed offenses, then this hypo presents no theoretical difficulties (when it comes to guilt and punishment) for you. (I think most lesser offenses are punished the same as attempts of those offenses in the MPC, which has this sort of bent but they don't fully commit.) If you think attempts should be punished less, then it's a bit of a head scratcher and you might end up feeling like what the courts did in those cases was the correct approach--it's a weird situation and we won't follow the exact rules b/c justice demands it.

Kimberly Ferzan has an interesting article on this sort of topic. (Written as a student under Kimberly Kessler--"The role of luck in Criminal Law.") There's actually a lot of interesting and varied opinions when it comes to how we should view attempts. But this is probably too much of a tangent for you to take just simply prepping for a crim law final.




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