Name: Genevieve Norwood lesson


Monday, October 27th, 2008

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Monday, October 27th, 2008

If you’re being tried for auto theft, the last thing you should do is give prosecutors the evidence they need to convict you and even though driving another stolen car to court isn’t inadmissible, it doesn’t help.

He was already charged with stealing a $125,000 Porsche, so when he showed up to court in a fancy, expensive Lexus, police were naturally suspicious.

I guess he figured a Lexus was a less conspicuous way of arriving at the courthouse.

What was the crime committed in this news story?­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­

News story 6:

Walgreens employees – use kitchen knife to stab during argument over who gets to use the microwave

Sunday, October 16th, 2005

A Walgreens employee allegedly stabbed a co-worker in an argument over who could microwave her soup first, authorities said.

Both women wanted to use the microwave in the employee break room Wednesday afternoon, according to the Broward County Sheriff’s Office.

While they were fighting over who could use the microwave first, Mellesia Grant grabbed a large kitchen knife off the counter and stabbed Merloze Tilme in the abdomen, the sheriff’s office said.

Grant was arrested for aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and held on a $50,000 bond.


What was the crime committed in this news story?­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­


News story 7:

Fry's VP was busted after leaving spreadsheets outlining his scheme on his desk. Fry's is one of the larger retail sellers of electronics and computer hardware.

Fry's VP has allegedly embezzled over $65 million from the retailer to fund a lavish lifestyle that included massive gambling and a penchant for driving a Ferrari. The VP is accused by the IRS of cutting deals with some of Fry's largest suppliers to buy larger orders of goods from them in return for free stuff and money and higher than normal commissions.

The VP’s gambling habits were so massive that the casino would charter private jets to fly him to Las Vegas to gamble. The man was arrested at Fry's headquarters and a judge ordered him held on a $300,000 bond.

The elaborate and lucrative scheme toppled when the VP left spreadsheets on his desk outlining the payments and alleged kickbacks. The spreadsheets were discovered by another Fry's executive while the VP was away from the office.

What was the crime committed in this news story?­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­

News story 8:

Portland police: Taunting texter burns woman's things

August 8, 2009

PORTLAND —A man angry at his girlfriend taunted her by text message as he burned her belongings, Portland police said. Fire investigators said they found three piles of belongings that had been set ablaze on the coffee table, kitchen table and in the bedroom.

"He he fire," one message reads. "Smoky in here."

It continues: "Really shouldn't leave someone who hates YOU alone with stuff. … Don't worry it's just stuff. … It's wet, burned and ripped, but it's just stuff. … Yeah, fire trucks and police."

In the calls, he said:

"Hope nothing important is in your bag cause your table is on fire. It's pretty."

"The Bible you've been using? It's a little singed."


What was the crime committed in this news story?­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­
Handout #3: Elements of a Crime


  1. Mens Rea. Mens Rea is often characterized as the mental requirement in a criminal law. Modern statutes often use four categories of mens rea: intentionally (or purposefully or willfully), knowingly, recklessly, and with criminal negligence.

  2. Actus Reus. Actus reus is often characterized as the physical part of a crime. In most cases, it describes what the offender must do. A murder statute will require the offender to “kill,” an arson law will punish people who “set fire to” a structure, and theft may require someone to “take” something

    1. Voluntary Act: The defendant’s act must be voluntary.

    2. Circumstances: Many crimes occur only in a specifically described situation. For example, bribery of a juror requires that the person bribed have been a juror (not another official).

    3. Harm or result: Many criminal laws require a specific harm to have occurred before the statute applies. In murder, there must be a person killed, and in arson, there must be a burned structure.

    4. Causation: Often a statute requiring harm (such as death or an explosion) also requires that the defendant cause that harm. Causation links the defendant’s conduct to the result.

      1. But for,” “Cause in Fact,” or “Actual” causation is the simplest form of causation. It simply provides that a particular result (such as death) would not have occurred without the defendant’s action.
      2. Proximate causation is narrower than “but for” causation. Proximate causation is limited to the foreseeable consequences of the defendant’s actions.


Handout #4 (Teachers version)

You be the judge!

Remain in your groups and choose a new reporter and recorder if possible. Do the questions for each round and write down your answers, working together as a group. Then stop at the end of that round and we’ll go through each group’s answer out loud, asking why they chose that particular answer, and noting on the board what each team put down. Then we’ll read the rule and see if any groups want to change their answers. At the end of each round, we’ll read out the correct answers before moving onto the next round. Points: one for getting it right each time, so two points if you get it right before and after the rule is read.



ROUND 1 – Learning element # 1 of every crime: Actus Reus = a Voluntary Act

It must be a Voluntary act (actus reus), so if you knowingly put yourself in a position where you will do something wrong beyond your control, you might be held liable.



Explanation of why “voluntary act” is a necessary element: If no act was necessary, then people would be punished for mere intent to commit crimes. Not every thought you do becomes an action. Imagine a world where there are thought police and you are punished for every bad thought you have. Then for each bad thought you have, you might as well commit the bad action if you are going to be punished anyway, which increase crime. Our society’s laws are hoping to decrease and deter criminal activity.

Scenario 1: A man was arguing with a police officer and was shot in the stomach. Though he lost consciousness, he continued struggling with the officer while unconscious, causing the policeman’s gun to discharge. The police officer’s gun shot the police officer and he died right away. (adapted from a real case, People v. Newton)


Questions: Would the unconscious man’s actions be considered voluntary (action under his control) or involuntary (action not under his control)? Why?

Will he be convicted of homicide?



Rule: If the man’s actions were voluntary, he will be convicted of criminal homicide.

Answer: Involuntary (action not under his control). Because his actions were while he was unconscious, he will not be convicted of homicide.

Scenario 2: A man was diagnosed with epilepsy. He frequently has seizures and becomes unconscious. He does not want to stop driving, even though he knows he could lose consciousness and cause car accidents. He decides to drive anyway. While driving, he has a seizure, becomes unconscious, and drives over a girl who is crossing the street. She dies. (adapted from People v. Decina)

Questions: Will the man who killed someone from having a seizure while driving be held criminally responsible for homicide?

If he had not yet been diagnosed and had his first seizure ever, would he still be criminally responsible for homicide?



Rule: If your actions are involuntary, you will not be convicted of homicide. However, there is an exception to that rule. If you know that you might lose consciousness, then you will be held accountable and convicted of homicide if you put yourself in a position where you might harm others if you become unconscious.

Answer: If you know that you might have a seizure and place yourself in a situation where your unconsciousness could cause someone else harm, then you will be criminally liable for homicide. If you had no way of suspecting you might lose consciousness, as in you have never before had a seizure, then you will not be convicted of homicide.

Scenario 3:

A grandmother and mother drank too much while at a bar with the mother’s baby. The grandmother offered to take the baby home with her. She did and put the baby to bed, but she was too drunk to notice that the baby was suffocating from the blankets. The baby died. The grandmother was charged with manslaughter due to her negligent behavior, or her lack of taking reasonable care of the child. (adapted from the Cornell v. State case)


Question: Is the grandmother guilty of manslaughter?

Rule: If you have a legal duty to act, have the necessary knowledge to act, and it is possible to act, then your lack of action can support a finding of criminal liability. Parents and legal guardians have a legal duty to protect their children from harm. If the grandmother’s lack of care for the baby caused the baby’s death, she is guilty of manslaughter.

However, a random bystander does not have a duty to act, unless he created the dangerous situation for someone. If someone wrongfully creates a dangerous situation for a person, then his failure to help that person will make him criminally liable. For example, if you beat a person up in the street and he can’t move, and then you leave him there and he gets hit by a car and dies, you will be guilty of murder. If you just happened to see a person beating up another person and didn’t do anything when he was hit by the car, you are not criminally liable.



Answer: Yes, the grandmother had a duty to take care of the child, she had the necessary knowledge to act, and it was possible for her to have prevented the child’s death, so she was guilty of manslaughter.

Stop working until told to start the next round.

Round 2: Mens Rea – a criminal state of mind

Mens rea – looks at what the criminal was thinking at the time of committing the crime. Most crimes require a criminal intent. This is to punish those who are most dangerous, with the rationale being that they will be more likely to do bad things again rather than the person who does so accidentally. However, sometimes you can be responsible even when mens rea doesn’t exist in order to protect other people, as you’ll see in some of the scenarios below.

Note: there are exceptions and not all crimes require mens rea.


Scenario 1: A man’s wife had an incurable and very painful disease. To put her out of her misery, he killed her.

Question: Did the man commit murder?

Rule: A murderer desires his victim’s death, or he at least knows that his actions could result in the victim’s death (e.g. beating him up so much that he could die). The person’s motives or good intentions are not considered.

Answer: Yes, even though his motive was of good intentions because he wanted to end his wife’s pain and misery, he still had the intent to kill her, which is murder. Therefore, he had a criminal state of mind and mens rea was present.

Scenario 2: A man was given something and asked to sell it for $100 dollars to someone. It ends up that what he was selling was opium (adapted from US v. Balint).

Question: Is he guilty of selling drugs?

Rule: To be charged with selling opium, you do not have to know that you are selling opium.

Answer: Yes, even though he did not intend to be selling opium, he was. This law exists because drugs are dangerous and if you are selling something, it is on you to investigate it to protect consumers.

Scenario 3: A man left his wife when he found out she had cancer and just assumed she had died, so he married another without getting a divorce. Years later, he discovers his wife was alive all this time.

Question: Is he guilty of bigamy? Bigamy is the act or condition of any person marrying another person while still being lawfully married.

Rule: Bigamy is the act or condition of any person marrying another person while still being lawfully married.

Answer: Yes, he is guilty of bigamy. You can generally convict someone of bigamy even if he/she did not know that his/her spouse was alive or that their divorce was invalid.

Scenario 4: A girl who is 19 has sex with a boy who is 15, though he looks to be about 20, and his age never came up.

Question: Is she guilty of statutory rape?

Rule: Statutory rape occurs when someone has sex with someone younger than the age of 16. In WA, the only defense against rape for the perpetrator if his/her responsibility depends on the victim’s age is if the victim claimed to be over the age of 16 or less than 48 months (4 years) apart from the age of the perpetrator (e.g. Victim claims to be 15 and half when perpetrator is 18 and a half. The perpetrator reasonably believed the 13 year old victim, so has a defense.) So even if the perpetrator doesn’t know the victim’s age because it was never mentioned, that is not a defense.

Answer: Yes, she is guilty of statutory rape. It does not matter that she thought he was over 16. Unless he said he was over 16 and she reasonably believed it, or they were within 48 months of each other in age, she will be found guilty.

Stop working until told to start the next round.

Round 3: Concurrence between Actus Reus and Mens Rea (must both exist at the same time)

Concurrence between the mens rea and the actus reus: there must be concurrence between the mental state and the act. So the act or result must be attributable to the “criminal state of mind”, meaning the criminal must have had intent while committing the criminal act.

Scenario 1: A woman enters a home because she wants to steal all of the jewelry. While on her way there, she changes her mind about stealing the jewelry, but it starts pouring, so she decides to go in and trespass into the house anyway until it stops raining (adapted from Jackson v. State).


Question: Did she commit burglary?

Rule: Burglary requires a person to have a trespassory entry with intent to steal while in the dwelling.

Answer: No, at the time of entry, she had already decided not to steal on the way there, so it can’t be said that she had the intent to steal while she was entering.

Scenario 2: It is pouring outside, so a woman enters a home to seek shelter from the rain. While in there, she sees some awesome jewelry. She decides she wants to steal all of the jewelry, so she does.

Question: Did she commit burglary?

Rule: Burglary requires a person to have a trespassory entry with intent to steal while in the dwelling.

Answer: No, at the time of entry, she had not yet known she would see something she wanted to steal and was just seeking shelter. However, she can be charged with theft (this was a trick question).

Scenario 3: Scott is really angry at his friend Rob for having a higher score at playing Angry Birds on their phones. He has always been the best at that game. He sees Rob walking down the street, and he decides to hit him with his car so he can’t play Angry Birds anymore. At the last minute, he changes his mind, but he can’t stop the car in time and it hits Rob, and Rob ends up getting injured. (very different facts, but same car crash concept as in People v. Claborn - angry birds didn’t exist in 1964, which is when this case was)

Question: Can Scott be convicted of battery? Battery is contact with another in a manner likely to cause bodily harm.

Rule: Battery is contact with another in a manner likely to cause bodily harm.

Answer: Yes, Scott can be convicted of battery. This is because the harm caused to Rob was due to Scott driving the car at Rob, and when Scott chose to do that, he had the required intent to harm Rob. It does not matter that when the car finally hit Rob, Scott no longer had that intent.

Stop working until told to start the next round.

Round 4: Causation

Causation: The criminal’s mental state must cause the harm. So if you intend to shoot someone but while you were thinking about it, you accidently run the person over, you’re not guilty of murder.

Two types of causation are required:



  • Factual Causation: Prosecution must show that the criminal’s actions were the factual result. If the criminal didn’t act so that result wouldn’t have happened as and when it did, then the criminal did not cause the crime and he is not a criminal.

  • Proximate causation: Asks if the criminal should actually be held liable, or if there was an intervening factor that caused the harm so that he should not be responsible. If what the defendant did led to the natural and probable consequence, even if something else happened in between, he will still be held responsible.

Factual Causation Questions:

Scenario 1: Betty cut Anna when she slapped her. Anna suffered just a slight cut and a few drops of blood fell. Tom then got mad at Anna and shot her, and Anna lost a lot more blood, worth about as much fits into a 2 liter of sprite. Anna bled to death.

Question: Did Betty cause Anna’s death?

Rule: Factual causation requires that the criminal’s action is a substantial factor in bringing about the result.

Answer: No, Betty did not cause Anna’s death. Though it was a “but for” cause in that had Betty caused Anna to lose some blood and she might have died a few minutes later from the gun wound had that blood not already been missing, she was not the substantial cause of Anna’s death. Tom’s action intervened, and without his action, Anna wouldn’t have died, so he is responsible.


Scenario 2: Nancy and Adam both shot Andrew at the same time. Andrew dies. Medical doctors found that he would have died from either one of their shots, even if the other hadn’t also shot him.

Question: Is Nancy responsible for Andrew’s death?

Rule: Factual causation requires that the criminal’s action is a substantial factor in bringing about the result.

Answer: Yes, they both are. Both of their shots are regarded as “but for” causes, even though the results would have occurred had either of them not fired because the other still would have shot him.

Proximate Causation Questions:

Scenario 3: Claire shoots Donovan and injures him. Donovan goes to the hospital. Unfortunately, his doctor is pretty sick with bird flu because he was just travelling somewhere that had it, and bird flu is contagious. It is the first case of bird flu ever in the state of Washington. Donovan gets bird flu and dies. (adapted from Bush v. Commonwealth)

Question: Can Claire be convicted for the death of Donovan?

Rule: If the thing that causes the harm is unforeseeable, then the criminal is not responsible for the harm. It must be unforeseeable to break the chain of causation.

Answer: No, Claire is not responsible for the death of Donovan. She is responsible for battery though. Donovan’s getting meningitis was unforeseeable, so that is an intervening factor that broke the chain of causation. If there was an outbreak of bird flu, the result might be different because Claire would know that by sending Donovan to the hospital, he could get bird flu and die, but that still seems like a stretch…

Scenario 4: Sally is a world champion boxer. She got mad at Cathy and hit her, knowing she might die from being hit that hard. Cathy did not die and was instead knocked unconscious. While unconscious, Cathy threw up and choked to death. (adapted from People v. Ginger, which was not about boxers)


Question: Can Sally be convicted for the death of Cathy?

Rule: If death is a “natural and probable consequence” of Sally’s actions, then she is responsible for the death. Look at what the “natural and probable consequences” are of the criminal’s actions, and if this is one of them, then the criminal is still responsible.

Answer: Yes, even though she didn’t know that Cathy would die, Cathy’s death was a “natural and probable consequence” from Sally hitting her. There were no intervening factors, so Sally caused Cathy’s death.

Scenario 5: Marty stabs Chris’s hand while playing poker because he is mad he is losing. Ordinarily, a person could just wrap a wound like this and be fine. However, Chris has hemophelia, but he hasn’t told anyone even though he’s had it for years, which means he bleeds more than most people and can die from even minor injuries. He bleeds to death.

Question: Can Marty be charged for the death of Chris?

Rule: The intervening factor must happen after the criminal’s actions for it to mean that the criminal’s action is no longer the cause of the harm. So there must be an intervening factor or interruption to break the chain of causation.

Answer: Yes, even though Marty didn’t know about Chris’s condition, only intervening factors after the action can break the chain of causation. Chris has had this condition for years, so it existed before Marty stabbed him. Marty can be charged with Chris’s death.

Handout #4 (Students’ version)

You be the judge!

Remain in your groups and choose a new reporter and recorder if possible. Do the questions for each round and write down your answers, working together as a group. Then stop at the end of that round and we’ll go through each group’s answer out loud, asking why they chose that particular answer, and noting on the board what each team put down. Then we’ll read the rule and see if any groups want to change their answers. At the end of each round, we’ll read out the correct answers before moving onto the next round. Points: one for getting it right each time, so two points if you get it right before and after the rule is read.


ROUND 1 – Learning element # 1 of every crime: Voluntary Act

It must be a Voluntary act (actus reus) : if you knowingly put yourself in a position where you will do something wrong beyond your control, you might be held liable.



Explanation of why “voluntary act” is a necessary element: If no act was necessary, then people would be punished for mere intent to commit crimes. Not every thought you do becomes an action. Imagine a world where there are thought police and you are punished for every bad thought you have. Then for each bad thought you have, you might as well commit the bad action if you are going to be punished anyway, which increase crime. Our society’s laws are hoping to decrease and deter criminal activity.

Scenario 1: A man was arguing with a police officer and was shot in the stomach. Though he lost consciousness, he continued struggling with the officer while unconscious, causing the policeman’s gun to discharge. The police officer’s gun shot the police officer who died right away. (adapted from a real case, People v. Newton)

Questions: Would the unconscious man’s actions be considered voluntary (action under his control) or involuntary (action not under his control)? Why?

Will he be convicted of homicide?



Scenario 2: A man was diagnosed with epilepsy. He frequently has seizures and becomes unconscious. He does not want to stop driving, even though he knows he could lose consciousness and cause car accidents. He decides to drive anyway. While driving, he has a seizure, becomes unconscious, and drives over a girl who is crossing the street. She dies. (adapted from People v. Decina)

Questions: Will the man who killed someone from having a seizure while driving be held criminally responsible for homicide?

If he had not yet been diagnosed and had his first seizure ever, would he still be criminally responsible for homicide?


Scenario 3:

A grandmother and mother drank too much while at a bar with the mother’s baby. The grandmother offered to take the baby home with her. The grandmother put the baby to bed, but she was too drunk to notice that the baby was suffocating from the blankets. The baby died. The grandmother was charged with manslaughter due to her negligent behavior, or her lack of taking reasonable care of the child. (adapted from the Cornell v. State case)



Question: Is the grandmother guilty of manslaughter?

Stop working until told to start the next round.

Round 2: Mens Rea – a criminal state of mind

Mens rea – looks at what the criminal was thinking at the time of committing the crime. Most crimes require a criminal intent. This is to punish those who are most dangerous, with the rationale being that they will be more likely to do bad things again rather than the person who does so accidentally. However, sometimes you can be responsible even when mens rea doesn’t exist in order to protect other people, as you’ll see in some of the scenarios below.

Note: there are exceptions and not all crimes require mens rea.



Scenario 1: A man’s wife had an incurable and very painful disease. To put her out of her misery, he killed her.

Question: Did the man commit murder?

Scenario 2: A man was given something and asked to sell it for $100 dollars to someone. It ends up that he was selling was opium (adapted from US v. Balint).

Question: Is he guilty of selling drugs?

Scenario 3: A man left his wife when he found out she had cancer and just assumed she had died, so he married another without getting a divorce. Years later, he discovers his wife was live all this time.


Question: Is he guilty of bigamy? Bigamy is the act or condition of any person marrying yet another person while still being lawfully married.

Scenario 4: A girl who is 19 has sex with a boy who is 15, though he looks to be about 20, and his age never came up.

Question: Is she guilty of statutory rape?

Stop working until told to start the next round.

Round 3: Concurrence between Actus Reus and Mens Rea (must both exist at the same time)

Concurrence between the mens rea and the actus reus: there must be concurrence between the mental state and the act. So the act or result must be attributable to the “criminal state of mind”, meaning the criminal must have had intent while committing the criminal act.

Scenario 1: A woman enters a home because she wants to steal all of the jewelry. While on her way there, she changes her mind about stealing the jewelry, but it starts pouring, so she decides to go in and trespass into the house anyway until it stops raining (adapted from Jackson v. State).

Question: Did she commit burglary?

Scenario 2: It is pouring outside, so a woman enters a home to seek shelter from the rain. While in there, she sees some awesome jewelry. She decides she wants to steal all of the jewelry, so she does.

Question: Did she commit burglary?

Scenario 3: Scott is really angry at his friend Rob for having a higher score at playing Angry Birds on their phones. He has always been the best at that game. He sees Rob walking down the street, and he decides to hit him with his car so he can’t play Angry Birds anymore. At the last minute, he changes his mind, but he can’t stop the car in time and it hits Rob, and Rob ends up getting injured. (Very different facts, but same car crash concept as in People v. Claborn - Angry Birds didn’t exist in 1964, which is when this case was.)


Question: Can Scott be convicted of battery? Battery is contact with another in a manner likely to cause bodily harm.

Stop working until told to start the next round.

Round 4: Causation

Causation: The criminal’s mental state must cause the harm. So if you intend to shoot someone but while you were thinking about it, you accidently run the person over, you’re not guilty of murder.

Two types of causation are required:



  • Factual Causation: Prosecution must show that the criminal’s actions were the factual result. So if the criminal didn’t act, then that result wouldn’t have happened as and when it did, then the criminal did not cause the crime and is not a criminal.

  • Proximate causation: Asks if the criminal should actually be held liable, or if there was an intervening factor that caused the harm so that he should not be responsible. If what the defendant did led to the natural and probable consequence, even if something else happened in between, he will still be held responsible.

Factual Causation Questions:

Scenario 1: Betty cut Anna when she slapped her. Anna suffered just a slight cut and a few drops of blood fell. Tom then got mad at Anna and shot her, and Anna lost a lot more blood, worth about as much fits into a 2 liter of sprite. Anna bled to death.

Question: Did Betty cause Anna’s death?

Scenario 2: Nancy and Adam both shot Andrew at the same time. Andrew dies. Medical doctors found that he would have died from either one of their shots, even if the other hadn’t also shot him.

Question: Is Nancy responsible for Andrew’s death?

Proximate Causation Questions:


Scenario 3: Claire shoots Donovan and injures him. Donovan goes to the hospital. Unfortunately, his doctor is pretty sick with bird flu because he was just travelling somewhere that had it, and bird flu is contagious. It is the first case of bird flu ever in the state of Washington. Donovan gets bird flu and dies. (adapted from Bush v. Commonwealth)

Question: Can Claire be convicted for the death of Donovan?

Scenario 4: Sally is world champion boxer. She got mad at Cathy and hit her, knowing she might die from being hit that hard. Cathy did not die and was instead knocked unconscious. While unconscious, Cathy threw up and choked to death. (adapted from People v. Ginger, which was not about boxers)

Question: Can Sally be convicted for the death of Cathy?

Scenario 5: Marty stabs Chris’s hand while playing poker because he is mad he is losing. Ordinarily, a person could just wrap a wound like this and be fine. However, Chris has hemophelia, but he hasn’t told anyone even though he’s had it for years, which means he bleeds more than most people and can die from even minor injuries. He bleeds to death.

Question: Can Marty be charged for the death of Chris?

Hand out #5




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