Chapter Summaries

        Chapter 3 uses the hypothetical example of the Smiths, based on the 2005 case of New Orleans nursing home operators who chose not to evacuate to escape Hurricane Katrina, but acquitted of 34 counts of manslaughter because of the intervening cause of the levees breaking and drowning residents in their care. The scenario has been updated to October 2018, Hurricane Michael hitting Florida. The chapter gives students the tools to competently discuss the concepts of mens rea and actus reus in assessing criminal responsibility and the public policy reasons supporting holding criminal offenders accountable only for the harm they intended to cause (pp. 66–73), and the difference between specific and general intent (pp. 74–75). Making the Courtroom Connection examines arresting people for conduct that may not fit within the statutory definition of a crime (p. 74). The case excerpt of Elonis v. U.S. (2015) discusses the requirement of intent when a statute is silent, specifically when making threats on the Internet (pp. 76–78). Scienter, strict liability, and transferred intent are also discussed (pp. 79–80). Students are introduced to element analysis as a way to appreciate the government’s obligation to meet the burden of proof at trial (or guilty plea) (p. 80). The principle of legality is discussed and illustrated by the Twitchell case, where prayer was chosen over medicine, with the courtroom perspective Figure 3.5 balancing the government’s interest against individual rights (pp. 81–82). Actus reus, possession, and status as acts are covered (pp. 83–84), so, too, the three-step causation analysis is introduced to get the students to elevate their analytical skills to determine if the original wrongdoer would be responsible for the ultimate harm, even if such harm was unforeseen and unpredictable (pp. 84–89). The case excerpt of NJ v. Pelham (2003) is interesting because the (conscious) drunk driving victim’s decision to end his life by terminating life support was not an intervening cause because state law reserved end-of-life decisions to the one affected. The chapter also discusses why and how society punishes the crimes of attempt, solicitation, and conspiracy and how responsibility is assigned to parties to the crime, such as principals and accessories (pp. 90–93). The case excerpt of Indiana v. Haines (1989) is unusual because the trial judge took the unusual step of finding in favor of the defendant mid-trial in his attempted murder case finding AIDS transmission impossible by biting and scratching and waving a bloody wig (see federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention On appeal, the government was successful because Haines had specific intent mens rea and unsuccessful actus reus which satisfied the elements of attempt.