1) Fearing the financial repercussions if his wife Lucy successfully divorces him, Steve plans to kill Lucy, who has recently left their home and moved into an apartment. Steve intends to make the...

1) Fearing the financial repercussions if his wife Lucy successfully divorces him, Steve plans to kill Lucy, who has recently left their home and moved into an apartment. Steve intends to make the murder look like a robbery gone wrong, and so goes to Lucy's apartment shortly after she gets home from work. At 7:30 PM, Steve, armed with a gun, knocks down Lucy's front door only to discover her and a man he does not know romantically entangled. A furious Steve shoots the man and then Lucy. Steve spots Lucy’s mom partially concealed by shadows down the hall; he directs the gun toward her and tells her “you better keep your mouth shut old lady.” Steve sprints out the front door and spots a neighbor watching him; he shoots her in the arm (an injury from which she recovers). Lucy's mother enters her daughter's apartment and finds her dead. She has a fatal heart attack while trying to call the police. Steve in his car runs over a pedestrian crossing the street. The pedestrian dies immediately. Steve is eventually arrested because of the red light camera that captured him hitting the pedestrian.

Discuss all of the crimes committed and the theories for criminal liability.

2) George needed money to feed his drug addiction and so planned to commit several crimes to get funds. On Monday, George dressed in an Acme Cable Company shirt het got at a previous job and went door to door a few blocks from his home. Mrs. Smith opened her door and George informed her he was from Acme and had come to work on some “trouble on the line.” Mrs. Smith told him to come in and while he pretended to work on the TV, he snuck $20 from the coffee table. On his way back to his house, he spotted a bicycle resting in a yard; he rode it to a pawn shop and sold it for $30. The next morning, George stole his neighbor's mower which was left on the carport and sold it at the flea market. On Wednesday George snuck into the “employee only” area and removed two purses from a Mega-Mart during business hours; he walked into another Mega-Mart during business hours and waited in the restroom until the store closed for the evening. He then lifted three digital cameras before sneaking out the emergency exit. He then noticed a parked car with an open window and grabbed a handful of CDs. Shortly thereafter he saw a police car driving toward him and, afraid to be caught with stolen goods, ran into the unlocked storage room of a gas station. When he emerged the police car was waiting for him and he was arrested, at which point he confessed to all of his crimes.

Discuss all of the crimes committed by George and the theories for criminal liability.

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kipling2448 | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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If Steve committed his crimes in a state with the death penalty, then he is most definitely a candidate for whatever form of capital punishment that particular state uses, most likely lethal injection.  If the state does not have capital punishment in its criminal statutes, then Steve will spend the rest of his life in a maximum security prison.

Steve committed first-degree murder, as well as manslaughter, aggravated assault with intent to murder, and breaking-and-entering.  The cumulative effect, assuming he is found guilty on all counts, will be life without parole.  Whether the charges of first-degree murder are proved before a jury or judge (in the event the defendant, Steve, opts to forgo a jury trial in favor of a bench decision) is, of course, unknown.  Because Lucy’s mother died of a heart attack caused by the shock of seeing her daughter’s murdered remains, Steve can be found guilty of her death, as he created the circumstances that led directly to her death through the conduct of criminal activities.  His negligence, which could be proven to be criminal in itself, led to other deaths, like that of the pedestrian, and he could clearly be tried for the attempted murder of the neighbor.  Few details of the initial crime – that which involved premeditation – are provided, such as whether Steve took precautions to minimize the prospects of his inadvertently leaving physical evidence of his presence at the scene of that crime, but, given the limited information provided, one can assume that no such precautions, for example, the wearing of gloves, hat, shoe coverings, etc., were taken.  Further, the discovery by Steve of the presence of Lucy’s boyfriend and of the mother would certainly have resulted in his having left such evidence (e.g., fingerprints, clothing fibers, hair, shoe impressions on carpeting, possibly including blood footprints).  Steve took the gun with him when he left the house (evident by his firing towards the neighbor), so he was presumably caught with it, providing sufficient evidence to link him to Lucy and the boyfriend’s deaths.  As he had no business being at Lucy’s home, the police would conclude that his presence was both predetermined and unwelcome.  The presence on Steve’s hand of cartridge discharge residue would prove he fired the gun.  In short, the investigation would prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Steve carried out first-degree murder, second-degree murder, aggravated assault, and manslaughter.  No argument would logically be accepted by a jury (other than the jury on the O.J. Simpson trial) that Steve was unaware of the implications of his actions (insanity defense).  Steve is criminally liable for the deaths of the mother and the pedestrian.  He is going away forever.

George committed multiple acts of theft.  Whether those acts of theft individually constituted felony or misdemeanor theft, however, is, again, dependent upon the state in question’s statutes.  In other words, whether the acts of theft were felonies or misdemeanors would be determined by the monetary value of the items stolen.  If the state’s distinction between felony and misdemeanor was the usual $500 or $1,000, then the prosecuting office would determine the value of the stolen items and charge accordingly.  Because the value of the three digital cameras could exceed the statutory monetary threshold, a charge of felony theft could be made against George.  

The key issue in discussing George’s situation is whether the state in which the crimes occurred have a law linking theft to drug addiction. If so, those theft charges would be more severe than would otherwise be the case. Theft by a shoplifter carrying out the crime for simple self-gratification or because of an underlying psychological condition that can be documented by a licensed practitioner would likely be considered much more leniently than thefts carried out by an individual supporting an addiction – a linkage under increasing attack by reform-minded criminologists. Because of these mitigating factors, no definitive answer can be provided regarding George’s situation.  That said, he did carry out multiple acts of theft, and confessed to those criminal activities.  Because of the confession, assuming he adheres to an agreement between the prosecutor and himself regarding his willingness to plead guilty before a judge, his sentence would likely be light – unless he has a prior history of criminal activity.  The mere fact of being in possession of illegal drugs, even if only in his blood system rather than in his pocket, would be sufficient to place him in a difficult situation, but the American criminal justice system places a great deal of merit on those who spare the system and the taxpayer the cost of a trial.

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