Criminal Law and Courts

Dick came home drunk and, through the walls, his children heard him making sexual advances towards his wife, Jane while she kept resisting them. The children heard their father shouting at their mother to stop resisting. Tom, the son, went out of his room and saw his father running after his mother and striking her while she screamed in terror. Jane ran into the bedroom and Dick followed her. He continued his advances until Tom shouted at him to stop. Dick then went to the adjoining bathroom to relieve himself. Rule:

Criminal sexual assault is committed one: 1) commits an act of sexual penetration by the use of force or threat of force; 2) commits an act of sexual penetration and the accused knew that the victim was unable to understand the nature of the act or was unable to give knowing consent; 3) commits an act of sexual penetration with a victim who was under 18 years of age when the act was committed and the accused was a family member; 4) commits an act of sexual penetration with a victim who was at least 13 years of age but under 18 years of age when the act was committed and the accused was 17 years of age or over and held a position of trust, authority or supervision in relation to the victim. 720 ILCS 5, Sec. 12 14. Analysis: The acts committed by Dick indicate his intent to commit criminal sexual assault of the first type because, he expressed his desire to have sex with his wife and when she refused, he used force and threats to try and get what he wanted.

However, he can only be held criminally liable for an attempt to commit the crime because he was unsuccessful carrying out his desired task and yet, he was able to commit an act that constituted a substantial step (demanding for sex and using force and threats) toward the commission of the offense that he intended. 720 ILCS 5, Sec. 8 1. 4. Furthermore, Dick’s offense may be aggravated by the fact that he had struck his wife and caused him bodily harm during the course of his sexual aggression. In his defense, Dick might be able to raise the fact that he never succeeded in penetrating his wife because he was too drunk or weak and that his offense ought to be reduced to attempted criminal sexual abuse, effectively reducing his sentence. Conclusion: Dick will be held guilty of attempted sexual assault because used force or threats to demand for sex from his wife.

His offense may be aggravated by the fact that he struck his wife, causing her bodily harm. Issue # 2: Are Tom and Sally guilty of conspiracy to murder Dick? Facts: After hearing a gunshot, Sally told Tom to help their mother. Tom refused at first for fear of his father. But Tom finally gave in after Sally threatened to hit him with a baseball bat. He said “Okay. But will you help me put an end to this craziness? ” Sally said “Yes”. So Sally took a handgun from the kitchen and handed it to Tom. Thinking that his father was still near the unlocked bedroom door, Tom shot through the door several times. It turned out that it was their mother who was near the door and she was seriously hurt because of the gunshots.

Conspiracy to murder is committed when 1) with intent that an offense be committed; 2) he agrees with another to the commission of that offense. No person may be convicted of conspiracy to commit an offense unless an act in furtherance of such agreement is alleged and proved to have been committed by him or by a co conspirator. 720 ILCS 5, Sec. 8 2. Analysis: Element 1) In this case, the intent must be inferred from the means used to stop the aggression. The handgun is clearly a deadly weapon and using it to stop another person, especially when it is improvidently aimed, will necessarily result in serious injury or even death. However, there is no clear evidence to show that murder was intended. What the siblings agreed upon was to “put an end to this craziness”.

Such phraseology may be interpreted to mean murder but it may also be understood to mean the stoppage of an aggressor. The evidence could tip either way considering that the person whom they wanted to stop was their own flesh and blood. In this case, where there is doubt as to the intent of the accused, favor has to be given to the presumption of innocence or of a lesser crime. Thus, all that could be inferred is that there was the intent to cause bodily harm to Dick enough to stop him from attacking or threatening Jane. The defense could raise self-defense as a justifying circumstance but there might be some debate as to the reasonableness of the means employed to stop the aggression.

Self-defense is where a person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or another against another’s imminent use of unlawful force. However, he is justified in the use of force which is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm only if he reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or another, or the commission of a forcible felony, 720 ILCS 5, Sec. 9 3. In this case, there was a need to defend another person (Jane) and there was the use of unlawful force (firing of the handgun) but there is serious doubt on the reasonableness of the means used by Tom to end the aggression.

Firing a gun through a door several times is reckless behavior in any situation where it is known to the shooter than there are innocent people inside the room. The act of shooting without taking even a minimal effort to aim correctly indicates unreasonableness and excess. On the other hand, we must also consider the youth of the offenders and their inexperience. They were obviously terrified when they heard the gunshot from inside the room and they could only assume that it was the Dick who was attacking Jane. There was little time to think and the danger was imminent and extremely serious. In this case, the court would probably take these details into consideration and allow the plea of self-defense to stand. Element 2) There was definitely an agreement to stop Dick from attacking Jane.

There was a clear understanding that the abuse had to stop. But there is no clear evidence to show that their idea of “stopping” their father meant killing him. In the absence of proof beyond reasonable doubt that this element is present, it must be deemed not to exist and with it goes any conviction of conspiracy to commit murder. Conclusion: Tom and Sally cannot be held to be guilty of conspiracy to murder Dick because there was no express or implied intent to murder their father based on the facts presented. Furthermore, they could raise the fact of self-defense to justify their acts. Issue # 3: Is Jane guilty of attempted murder of Dick? Facts:

While Dick was relieving himself in the bathroom, Jane pulled out a pistol from her boot and shot him from the back, causing him great bodily harm. Rule: The elements of first degree murder are: 1) A person kills an individual; 2) without justification; 3) under any of the following circumstances: a) the accused intended to kill or cause great bodily harm to the victim or another, or knows that such acts will cause the death; b) He knows that such acts create a strong probability of death or great bodily harm to that individual or another; or c) He is attempting or committing a forcible felony other than second degree murder. 720 ILCS 5, Sec. 9 1. Analysis: Element 1) There was killing in this case.

Dick was merely seriously injured by a gunshot to the back. Thus, the first element is absent. However, Jane’s act may be considered as murder in its stage because she already committed an act that constituted a substantial step (shooting Dick at the back) toward the commission of the offense she intended (killing or injuring Dick). 720 ILCS 5, Sec. 8 1. 4. Element 2) The justification of self-defense might be raised in this case but it will probably fail as a justifying circumstance because Dick was shot from the back (indicating treachery) while he was relieving himself (indicating temporary incapacity to defend himself) and he was drunk (indicating temporary weakness).

Incomplete self-defense might be raised as a mitigating circumstance but the element of reasonableness is missing in this case. To shoot someone in the back cannot be perceived as an action in response to an immediate threat unless maybe he was picking up a weapon. Nevertheless, there are certain defenses that the court might consider like the “Battered Spouse Syndrome”, which could excuse the wife from criminal liability. The Battered Spouse Syndrome is a special type of self-defense that describes victims of long-term spousal abuse as mentally unbalanced. Thus, they could be seen to be submissive at times and suddenly aggressive the next. This standard has been accepted by many courts for as long as evidence of psychological disturbance can be proved.

Given the circumstance in this case of long-term abuse, it would be proper to raise such defense. Element 3) It is clear that shooting a person with a handgun will result in serious injury or death. It may be reasonably assumed that the Jane knew this as she shot her husband in the back. However, there is doubt if she intended to end her husband’s life or merely incapacitate him for the time being. It could be argued that if she truly wanted him dead, she could have shot him on the head. Her action of aiming the gun at a non-fatal region of the body indicates that there could have been no intent to kill and in case of serious doubts, the court must rule that there was no such intent.

With all these in mind, Jane will probably be excused from criminal liability for as long as she is able to prove that she is a victim of the battered spouse syndrome. In the alternative, if she should be found to be guilty, it should be of bodily injuries and not first degree murder because there is doubt as to her intent to end the life of her husband. Conclusion: Sally cannot be held liable for attempted murder of Dick because her act of shooting him on a non-fatal body part denies any intent to kill. She might be held liable for the bodily harm she caused but then she also has the defenses of self-defense and the battered woman syndrome, which if properly proven, could exonerate her from all liability. Issue # 5: Is Sally guilty of solicitation of murder of Dick? Facts:

After hearing a gunshot, Sally told Tom to help their mother. Tom refused at first for fear of his father. But Tom finally gave in after Sally threatened to hit him with a baseball bat if he refused. He said “Okay. But will you help me put an end to this craziness? ” Sally said “Yes”. So Sally took a handgun from the kitchen and handed it to Tom. Rule: The elements of the crime of solicitation of murder are 1) with the intent that the offense of first degree murder be committed 2) a person commands, encourages or requests another to commit that offense. 720 ILCS 5, Sec. 8 1. 1. Analysis: Element 1) The facts do not show that Sally intended her brother, Tom, to kill their father, Dick.

The only thing certain is that she wanted Tom to stop their father from harming their mother, Jane. The offering of the handgun would not be enough to show that murder was contemplated for a handgun, in the hands of a cautious person, may be used to simply incapacitate or disable the target, such as when one shoots another’s leg or any other non-fatal body parts. Sally expressed that she wanted her father “stopped”. She never mentioned the word “murder” or “kill” or anything that would indicate the intent to kill. Without proof, the presumption of innocence will prevail. Element 2) Sally commanded, encouraged and requested Tom to stop their father. However, it was not clear as to what extend she wanted him stopped.

Killing was definitely not mentioned and it their main intent was to rescue their mother, even if it meant injuring their father in the process. The careless shooting was definitely unexpected but in Sally’s point of view, she wanted her father stopped and she asked her brother, Tom to do so. Thus, we could say that Sally, merely asked Tom to defend their mother, which is legally justified under the theory of self-defense. Conclusion: No. Sally never asked Tom to kill their father. All she asked him was to stop their father from hurting their mother. Without any intent to cause murder, there can be no solicitation of murder. Finally, she could raise the defense that she wanted her brother to defend their mother from further aggression and pain.

Sarah from Law Aspect

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