Select '>' to see answers, then uncheck boxes when incorrect.
RULE STATEMENT
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A criminal homicide results from some action or actions of the defendant that cause the death of another human being with criminal intent and without legal excuse or justification


1.) Is the victim dead as a result of the DEFENDANT'S ACT?

If so, are there any CAUSATION issues?


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There is no criminal liability for a homicide without a showing that the defendant caused the victim's death.  Both types of causation, actual cause and proximate cause, must be established to support a finding that a killing was caused by the defendant.


ACTUAL CAUSE
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1." But For" Test

2.  Substantial Factor Test


" BUT FOR" TEST
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If the victim would not have died absent the defendant's act, then the defendant's act is the actual cause of the killing.  (in other words, were it not for or "but for" the defendants actions, the victim would be living.)


SUBSTANTIAL FACTOR TEST
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When there are multiple causes or other parties responsible for the victim's death, in addition to the defendant's act, courts will still find a defendant actually caused the killing and if the defendant's act was a substantial factor causing the killing.


Actual Cause (cont)

By itself, the defendant's act was not fatal?


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When the defendants action alone would be insufficient to cause the victim's death, but when joined with other factors contributes to the death, a court may still find actual causation.


Actual Cause (cont)

Victim near death?


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Assume a victim is already dying before defendant acts.  If, however, the defendant's actions bring about the victim's death more quickly than had the defendant not acted, the defendants action would nonetheless be an actual cause of the killing.


PROXIMATE CAUSE (legal cause)
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1.  Direct cause

2. Indirect cause


Proximate Cause (cont) 

DIRECT CAUSE


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When the defendant's actions alone cause the killing, the defendants act is the direct cause and the proximate cause, and it is very likely that the defendant will be held legally responsible.


Proximate Cause (cont)

Especially sensitive victims?


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If the victim's death results from a special sensitivity (such as hemophilia or other pre-existing medical condition), the defendants act is a proximate cause of the killing, regardless of whether the defendant could have foreseen the victims unique medical condition.


Proximate Cause (cont)

Indirect Cause


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In indirect cause situations, the other force that combines with the defendant's act to bring about the death of the victim is called an intervening cause.  Intervening causes are classified as either dependent or independent intervening causes.


Proximate Cause (cont)

Defendant Vs. Independent


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    Where an intervening force is a result of or response to the defendant's act, it is a dependent intervening cause.

An independant intervening cause is one that would have occurred regardless of the defendant's act. To relieve defendant of liability and thus, in effect, break the chain of proximate cause, the other forces must be a superseding intervening cause.


Proximate Cause (cont)

Superseding Causes


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An intervening cause their results in a finding of no proximate cause, is called a superseding intervening cause.


Proximate Cause (cont)

Superseding Dependant Causes


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 A dependent intervening cause will supersede the defendant's act only when it is a totally abnormal response to the defendant's act.


Proximate Cause (cont)

Superseding Independent Causes


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Independant intervening causes normally supersede the defendant's act - except when the independent intervening force was foreseeable.


2.) Is the victim dead as a result of the ACT OF A THIRD PARTY?
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If so, is there a VICARIOUS LIABILITY argument as to why this defendant should be responsible?


Vicarious Liability

Accomplice Liability?


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A defendant who is an accomplice to the killer, may be held liable for a homicide even though only the killer actually acted to cause the victim's death.


Accomplice Liability (cont)

Traditional rule - All Felons Liable


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At common law, all felons were liable for any homicide that occurred during the perpetration ofthe felony.  The common law did not make exceptions for homicide committed by non felons.  A minority of jurisdictions now makes an exception for a nonviolent co-felon, for example, one who was not armed and did not participate in or have any knowledge of the co-felons intentions.


Accomplice Liability (cont)

Split Of Authority


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Accomplice Liability (cont)

Gun Battles


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3.) Is the victim dead as a result of the defendant's OMISSION TO ACT?  If so, did the defendant have an affirmative DUTY TO ACT?
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Omission to act?

Was there an affirmative duty to act?


Was There An Affirmative Duty To Act?
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Did the defendant act with MALICE?

RULE:


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Malice may be established by any of the following:

1. Intent to kill,

2. Intent to inflict serious bodily injury,

3.  Wanton and willful misconduct, and

4. Felony murder


Malice (cont)

Did the defendant act with the intent to kill?


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Intent to kill requires proof that the defendant acted with the conscious desire to kill the victim or with substantial certainty that (D)'s actions will result in the victim's death.


Malice (cont)

Intent To Kill - Defendant's Words


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(D) owned statements may provide proof of intent-to-kill.


Malice (cont)

Intent To Kill - Deadly Weapon


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If a deadly weapon such as a gun or knife is used in a lethal manner and the victim dies as a result, the use of such a weapon is sufficient to prove intent to kill.


Malice (cont)

Did the defendant act with the INTENT TO SERIOUSLY INJURE?


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Malice (cont)

Intent To Seriously Injure - proof of intent to inflict serious bodily injury?


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Must be proven by examination of all the surrounding circumstances, including the words and behavior of the defendant.  Also, the intentional use of any deadly weapon (in a way that is likely to cause death or serious injury) provides evidence of intent to inflict serious bodily injury.


Malice (cont)

Did the defendant act with WANTON AND WILLFUL DISREGARD for human life?


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110 and willful misconduct is conduct that defendant knows creates an extremely serious risk of death or serious bodily injury.  (sometimes referred to as "depraved heart. ")


Malice (cont)

Wanton and Willful Disregard - Socially Reasonable Risks


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(D) may knowingly create a very high risk of death or serious bodily injury for logical and socially reasonable purpose, in which case the conduct would not be considered wonton and willful.


Malice (cont)

Does the FELONY MURDER RULE apply?


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Malice (cont)

Felony Murder Rule - Was the crime an INHERENTLY DANGEROUS felony?


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Malice (cont)

Felony Murder Rule - Dangerous By Definition


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Felonies such as arson, burglary, rape, robbery and kidnapping.


3.) If malice exists, then MURDER unless:

JUSTIFICATION


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Where there is adequate justification for a homicide, no crime has been committed.


Justification (cont)

Was the victim engaged in the COMMISSION OF A CRIMEIf so, does either CRIME PREVENTION or APPREHENSION OF A FLEEING FELON apply?


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Justification (cont)

Can the defendant claim either SELF DEFENSE or DEFENSE OF OTHERS?


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Justification (cont)

Did the defendant act under a REASONABLE AND GOOD FAITH MISTAKE?


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EXCUSE
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A homicide that is excused, relieves a defendant of criminal liability.


Excuse (cont)

Was the defendant TOO YOUNG to be criminally liable?


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Excuse (cont)

Was the defendant INSANE?


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If the defendant is insane at the time of a homicide, no criminal liability will be imposed.


Excuse (cont)

Three Tests For Insanity


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1. M'Naghten Rule

2. The "Irresistible Impulse" Test

 3. The Model Penal Code Or Substantial Capacity Test


Excuse (cont)

M'Naghten Rule


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1. Did not understand the nature and quality of the act, or

2. Did not know that the act was wrong.


Excuse (cont)

The " Irresistible Impulse" Test


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1. Did not know the nature and quality of the act, or

2. Did not know the act was wrong, or,

3. Even if the defendant knew both of these, was nevertheless unable to control the conduct to conform to the defendant's knowledge.


Excuse (cont)

The Model Penal Code Or Substantial Capacity Test


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1. Appreciate the criminality or wrongfulness of the conduct, or

2. Conform the conduct to what the law requires.


 

Was the defendant INVOLUNTARILY INTOXICATED?


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Intoxication is considered involuntary where a defendant does not know what here she has ingested, ingests an intoxicating substance under duress, or ingests the offending substance pursuant to medical advice while unaware of its effects.


MITIGATION

(converts murder into VOLUNTARY MANSLAUGHTER)


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A homicide which is mitigated is reduced to the lesser crime of voluntary manslaughter.


Mitigation (cont)

Did the defendant act under PROVOCATION?


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Mitigation (cont)

Provocation - Reasonable (Adequate) Provocation?


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Act of provocation must be one that would have caused a reasonable person in defendant some circumstances (and the defendant in fact) to lose his self-control and kill the provoker.


Mitigation (cont)

Provocation - No "Cooling Off"


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Murder may not be mitigated to manslaughter if a defendant actually regains composure (cools off) before killing.

Majority of jurisdictions use reasonable-person test to determine whether sufficient time has passed between the provocation and the homicide such that a reasonable person would have cooled off; if so, the murder charge stands, even if the defendant is still in the "heat of passion."


Mitigation (cont)

Provocation - Defendant Kills non Provoker?


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As a general rule, the defendant who is claiming provocation must direct his anger at the person who actually caused the provocation.

The killing of a third party may still be mitigated if the defendant reasonably but mistakenly believed that the third party was responsible for the provocation, or the defendant sought to kill the provoker but accidentally killed the third party.


Mitigation (cont)

Did the defendant act under COERCION or out of NECESSITY?


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At common law, duress was no defense to a homicide, but in some modern jurisdictions, if a reasonable person would have killed someone else to avoid his own death, the defense of duress is recognized.

The threat of death by a third party to a defendant does not excuse that defendant's intentional killing of a victim.

Duress is a defense to any lesser crime, so it might act to relieve a defendant of liability under the felony-murder rule, as a defense to the underlying felony.

Modern trends would mitigate murder to voluntary manslaughter if a reasonable person in the same situation would have killed rather than die.


Mitigation (cont)

Did the defendant act under an UNREASONABLE but GOOD FAITH MISTAKE?


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"Imperfect" defenses:

Where a justification or excuse fails because the defendant acted unreasonably but nonetheless in good faith, many jurisdictions may still allow the crime to be mitigated. 


If malice does not exist, then:

Did the defendant act with CRIMINAL NEGLIGENCEIf so, then INVOLUNTARY MANSLAUGHTER


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Criminal Negligence (cont)

Does the MISDEMEANOR MANSLAUGHTER RULE applyIf so, then INVOLUNTARY MANSLAUGHTER


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DEGREES OF MURDER
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1. First degree murder

2. Second-degree murder


First-Degree Murder


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Cases were the defendant acted with the PREMEDITATED and DELIBERATE INTENT to KILL.


First-degree Murder (cont)

Premeditation


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Premeditation indicates that a defendant spent more significant time period reflecting on how and whether to kill before actually killing.  An "appreciable".  Maybe a short as a few seconds.


First-degree Murder (cont)

Deliberate


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" Deliberate" typically means a consideration of whether and/or how to kill was made not in the heat of passion, but with a cool mind and while the defendant was able to reflect.


First-degree Murder (cont)

Effect Of Involuntary Intoxication


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If (D) was voluntarily intoxicated - but still sober enough to form the intent to kill - he may be able to avoid liability for first-degree murder by proof that the intoxication precluded him from acting with premeditation or deliberation.


First-degree Murder (cont)

ESPECIALLY HEINOUS MURDERS


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Murders resulting from agree just actions such as ambush (referred to as "lying in wait"), torture, bombs, terrorism or poison will likely be classified as first degree murders.


First-degree murder (cont)

Did the victim die during the commission of an INHERENTLY DANGEROUS FELONY?


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Most jurisdictions specifically list bowls underlying felonies which result in felony-murder that classify as first-degree.  (most commonly listed or arson, burglary, rape, robbery, and kidnapping).


Second-degree Murder
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All others that are not first degree murder.



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