Causation in Crim - need help on this hypo

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dood
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Causation in Crim - need help on this hypo

Postby dood » Sun Nov 08, 2009 6:07 pm

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Last edited by dood on Tue Jun 29, 2010 8:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.

270910
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Re: Causation in Crim - need help on this hypo

Postby 270910 » Sun Nov 08, 2009 6:46 pm

'guilty for'? These questions beg like a zillion questions (attempt, gradation, etc.)

Also, it's really annoying when people post hypos w/o their own analysis. It's much easier to figure out where you went wrong or right because we've all had different crim profs and read different crim supplements...

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Cavalier
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Re: Causation in Crim - need help on this hypo

Postby Cavalier » Sun Nov 08, 2009 7:11 pm

betasteve wrote:
dood wrote:A is going to the desert.
B poisons A's water with intent to kill A.
C steals A's water when A is in the desert.

C dies by poisoning.
A dies by dehydration (but death would have occurred by poison).

Is B guilty for A? For C?
Is C guilty for A?

Thanks.

It depends.

Maybe.

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rayiner
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Re: Causation in Crim - need help on this hypo

Postby rayiner » Sun Nov 08, 2009 7:26 pm

dood wrote:A is going to the desert.
B poisons A's water with intent to kill A.
C steals A's water when A is in the desert.

C dies by poisoning.
A dies by dehydration (but death would have occurred by poison).

Is B guilty for A? For C?
Is C guilty for A?

Thanks.


B for murder of C:
B's poisoning of the water is but-for cause of C's death. It's almost certainly proximate cause as well (highly foreseeable). B has required mens rea, transferred to C from A.

B for murder of A:
B's poisoning of water is not but-for cause of A's death. A would've died whether or not B poisoned the water. B has the required mens rea, but without the act you can't get him for anything more than attempt.

This is actually a fairly clear-cut hypo that seems to test two specific things: that you know about transferred intent and how but-for causation works. Yes, you generally want to argue both sides when you can, but sometimes, hypo is just there to see if you get all the implications of the rule. This came up on my torts midterm twice, actually: there were two places in the fact pattern that tested whether you remembered that negligence per-se does not apply when the statute doesn't prescribe a specific standard of care, and when it is a licensing statute where licensing wouldn't have prevented the behavior that caused the harm. You missed points if you didn't draw the proper conclusion.

EDIT: Ah, didn't see the second question about C. Pete does a good job with that down below.
Last edited by rayiner on Sun Nov 08, 2009 8:01 pm, edited 2 times in total.

SlipperyPete
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Re: Causation in Crim - need help on this hypo

Postby SlipperyPete » Sun Nov 08, 2009 7:32 pm

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misformafia
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Re: Causation in Crim - need help on this hypo

Postby misformafia » Sun Nov 08, 2009 7:43 pm

rayiner wrote:
dood wrote:A is going to the desert.
B poisons A's water with intent to kill A.
C steals A's water when A is in the desert.

C dies by poisoning.
A dies by dehydration (but death would have occurred by poison).

Is B guilty for A? For C?
Is C guilty for A?

Thanks.


B for murder of C:
B's poisoning of the water is but-for cause of C's death. It's almost certainly proximate cause as well (highly foreseeable). B has required mens rea, transferred to C from A.

B for murder of A:
B's poisoning of water is not but-for cause of A's death. A would've died whether or not B poisoned the water. B has the required mens rea, but without the act you can't get him for anything more than attempt.

This is actually a fairly clear-cut hypo that seems to test two specific things: that you know about transferred intent and how but-for causation works. Yes, you generally want to argue both sides when you can, but sometimes, hypo is just there to see if you get all the implications of the rule. This came up on my torts midterm twice, actually: there were two places in the fact pattern that tested whether you remembered that negligence per-se does not apply when the statute doesn't prescribe a specific standard of care, and when it is a licensing statute where licensing wouldn't have prevented the behavior that caused the harm. You missed points if you didn't draw the proper conclusion.


+1.

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Re: Causation in Crim - need help on this hypo

Postby SlipperyPete » Sun Nov 08, 2009 7:44 pm

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Re: Causation in Crim - need help on this hypo

Postby Kohinoor » Sun Nov 08, 2009 8:35 pm

Pretty sure that C is guilty no questions asked. He triggered the series of events that led to the death of the victim. The fact that the defendant would likely have died either way has no bearing on the guilt of C. Any other result would probably provide criminals with the impetus to always attack people in gangs in order to avoid liability for murder by being able to insist that their actions were not the but for cause of the victim's death.

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Re: Causation in Crim - need help on this hypo

Postby macattaq » Sun Nov 08, 2009 9:02 pm

SlipperyPete wrote:
SlipperyPete wrote:LaFave poses that hypo in his hornbook. He doesn't answer it though, only cites to an earlier scholar who asked the same question. This makes me think there isn't a definite answer, either because it varies by jurisdiction or (more likely) there are solid arguments for each side and no jurisdiction anywhere has decided on the matter.


After reading rayiner's response, I realize I failed to read your hypo. I agree with rayiner's answer.

The hypo I thought you were asking about was:

A is going to the desert.
B poisons A's water canteen with intent to kill A.
C empties A's water canteen.
A dies by dehydration (but death would have occurred by poison).

Without knowing any more facts, it is impossible to apply the sine qua non test. It is not clear whether C prolonged A's life (A lasted longer with no water than he would have had he ingested poison upon his first swig from the canteen) or shortened it (perhaps the poison would have taken several days to finally kill A).

More fundamentally, it is obvious that A died in a manner which was caused by C (dehydration). But should "causing death" mean merely determining the precise manner of death, or bringing about death more quickly than it otherwise would have occurred?


If your action accelerates a person's death by even just a moment, then if I am not mistaken, you have caused that person's death. If it were otherwise, it would be rare for someone to be convicted of murder. Technically, the bullet is the actual cause of death, and we want to put the person who started the chain of events in motion in jail. 'But for' causation allows you to sidestep this issue and point the finger at the person who pulled the trigger of the gun rather than at the bullet that pierced their brain.

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Re: Causation in Crim - need help on this hypo

Postby SlipperyPete » Sun Nov 08, 2009 10:03 pm

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m311
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Re: Causation in Crim - need help on this hypo

Postby m311 » Sun Nov 08, 2009 11:31 pm

SlipperyPete wrote:You are not mistaken. A pushes B off the top of a 50 story building and B begins falling to his certain death. Moments later, C, who is standing on the third floor of the building, points his gun out a window and fires. The bullet strikes B, killing him instantly, before his body strikes the ground. A is not guilty of murder.
Yeah he is.

A (the pusher) is still a but-for cause. But for his volitional act, the harm wouldn't have occurred when or how it did.

He'll probably also be found as a proximate/legal cause. There are no hard rules for a proximate causation finding, but generally it's a determination of whether judge/jury thinks defendant (w/ requisite mens rea, actus reus and but-for causation) can fairly be said to have caused the harm. In this case I think it's pretty clearly yes.

Examples: People v. Kibbe- where Ds rob a drunk guy and leave him out in the snow by a road. Death was foreseeable (by cold.) However V went and sat in the road and was killed by a speeding truck. So the manner of death was not foreseeable, but they were held guilty.

Similarly: http://www.4lawschool.com/arzon.htm

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Re: Causation in Crim - need help on this hypo

Postby 2009 Prospective » Sun Nov 08, 2009 11:37 pm

Using Dressler?

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Re: Causation in Crim - need help on this hypo

Postby SlipperyPete » Mon Nov 09, 2009 12:24 am

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dood
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Re: Causation in Crim - need help on this hypo

Postby dood » Mon Nov 09, 2009 1:32 pm

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SlipperyPete
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Re: Causation in Crim - need help on this hypo

Postby SlipperyPete » Mon Nov 09, 2009 2:45 pm

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mac.empress
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Re: Causation in Crim - need help on this hypo

Postby mac.empress » Mon Feb 08, 2010 2:21 am

Do we have an answer yet?

Titus
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Re: Causation in Crim - need help on this hypo

Postby Titus » Mon Feb 08, 2010 11:43 am

There is a weak argument for necessity here in C's case but we would lack facts to analyze that. Necessity is just a defense though, it is clear that C [s]is guilty[/s] has met the elements for murder and would need a defense of some sort.

Edit for precision.

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Re: Causation in Crim - need help on this hypo

Postby winokbe » Mon Feb 08, 2010 10:20 pm

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Re: Causation in Crim - need help on this hypo

Postby mac.empress » Tue Feb 09, 2010 3:28 pm

betasteve wrote:
mac.empress wrote:Do we have an answer yet?

There's no answer — only arguments each way.


I was working it out in Br/Commonwealth law. Ah, the joys of knowing people at other law schools. Except for the supporting cases, the argument for both sides looks pretty much the same.

Except for the necessity bit.




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