Homicide and Crimes Against the Public

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Due: 6pm

Discussion 1: Homicide

Choose one of of the following options for this week’s discussion.  Be sure to indicate in your subject/title which option you chose (A or B).

Option A: Felony Murder

In this module, we studied felony murder doctrine, which holds offenders liable for causing death during the commission (or attempt) of a felony.  In some states, the doctrine requires the underlying felony to be inherently dangerous, and in other states the rule applies to any felony.  Consider the case of a Gwinnett County woman who fired her gun at intruders who broke into her home in the middle of the night.  Watch the home surveillance clip, the news report, and the aftermath interview where she explains what happened.  The homeowner fired shots at the intruders, and one of them died in the driveway outside the home.  Discuss 2 reasons why we recognize the felony murder rule.  What is the rationale for this policy?  Based on what you learned in this module, who do you think is responsible for the killing and why?

The felony murder rule is a legal doctrine that attributes criminal liability for a killing to individuals who are committing or attempting to commit a felony, regardless of whether they intended to kill or directly caused the death. One primary reason for recognizing the felony murder rule is its deterrent effect. By holding individuals strictly accountable for any deaths that occur during the commission of a felony, the rule creates a significant disincentive for engaging in dangerous felonies. The heightened level of responsibility aims to discourage individuals from participating in activities that carry a high risk of violence or fatalities, thus promoting public safety.

Another important reason for the felony murder rule is to ensure accountability for the predictable consequences of one’s actions. When individuals engage in felonies, especially those that are inherently dangerous, it is foreseeable that someone might be harmed or killed. The felony murder rule ensures that perpetrators cannot evade liability by claiming a lack of intent to kill, as their involvement in dangerous activities already implies a significant risk of fatal outcomes. This principle reinforces the idea that participants in felonious acts must be responsible for all resulting harm, thereby upholding justice and the rule of law.

In the case of the Gwinnett County woman who fired her gun at intruders, resulting in the death of one of them in the driveway, the application of the felony murder rule must be considered carefully. According to the principles of this rule, the intruders could be held responsible for the death of their accomplice. Since they were engaged in the commission of a felony—breaking and entering with potential intent to commit further crimes inside the home—they can be held liable for any deaths that occurred as a direct result of their criminal actions. The rationale is that the dangerous situation they created by intruding into the home at night led to the defensive use of lethal force by the homeowner, resulting in the death.

From the perspective of self-defense and lawful protection of one’s home, the homeowner’s actions can be justified. Most jurisdictions recognize the right to use reasonable force, including deadly force, in defense of oneself and one’s home, especially when faced with an immediate threat such as a home invasion. Therefore, the homeowner is not likely to be held criminally responsible for the death under the felony murder rule or any other criminal statute, as she was acting within her rights to protect herself and her property.

In summary, the felony murder rule serves to deter dangerous felonies and hold individuals accountable for the foreseeable consequences of their criminal actions. In the Gwinnett County case, the intruders bear responsibility for the killing under this doctrine, as their felonious actions precipitated the deadly response from the homeowner. This application of the rule underscores its importance in promoting accountability and deterrence in the context of serious criminal behavior.

Option B: Research a Homicide Case

Research local news stories and/or current events nationwide and locate a homicide case.  Briefly describe the pertinent facts of the case and discuss how it ties in to the criminal law offenses and applicable charges that we studied in this module.  Do you think each element of the charge can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt?  Why or why not? Be sure to provide a link to the case as well.

One prominent homicide case that has captured national attention is the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer charged in the death of George Floyd. The incident occurred on May 25, 2020, when Chauvin, during an arrest, knelt on Floyd’s neck for over nine minutes while Floyd was handcuffed and lying face down on the street. Floyd repeatedly stated that he could not breathe, but Chauvin did not remove his knee. Floyd eventually became unresponsive and was later pronounced dead. This case ties into the criminal law offenses and applicable charges studied in this module, particularly those involving different degrees of murder and manslaughter.

Derek Chauvin faced multiple charges, including second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. Second-degree unintentional murder involves causing the death of a human being, without intent, while committing or attempting to commit a felony (in this case, felony assault). Under the felony murder rule, if someone dies as a result of a felonious act, the perpetrator can be held liable for murder even if there was no intent to kill. The prosecution argued that Chauvin’s actions during the arrest amounted to felony assault and directly caused Floyd’s death.

Third-degree murder involves causing death by perpetrating an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind, without regard for human life. The prosecution contended that Chauvin’s prolonged kneeling on Floyd’s neck, despite Floyd’s pleas and obvious distress, demonstrated a reckless disregard for human life. The video evidence showing the prolonged nature of the restraint and Chauvin’s disregard for Floyd’s condition supported this charge. The jury concluded that Chauvin’s actions were indeed reckless and showed a disregard for human life.

Second-degree manslaughter involves culpable negligence, whereby the defendant creates an unreasonable risk and consciously takes chances of causing death or great bodily harm to another. The argument here was that Chauvin’s actions were grossly negligent and created an unreasonable risk, leading to Floyd’s death. The visual and testimonial evidence of Chauvin’s actions and the medical testimony regarding the cause of death played crucial roles in establishing culpable negligence.

To convict Chauvin on any of these charges, each element of the respective offense needed to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. For second-degree unintentional murder, the prosecution had to prove that Chauvin’s actions constituted a felony assault and that this assault was the direct cause of Floyd’s death. Medical evidence, expert testimony, and video footage of the incident were critical in establishing these elements. The jury found that Chauvin’s actions met the criteria for felony assault, and the resulting harm (Floyd’s death) was a foreseeable outcome.

Ultimately, Derek Chauvin was found guilty on all three charges. The combination of video evidence, witness testimonies, and expert analyses provided a compelling case that met the burden of proof required for each charge. This case highlights the complexities of criminal law and the importance of thorough evidence presentation in securing a conviction. For further details on this case, see the following link: [Derek Chauvin Trial Overview](https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/20/us/derek-chauvin-verdict.html).

Discussion 2: Crimes Against the Public

Historically, vagrancy statutes have been overly broad and vague to allow law enforcement a great deal of discretion to arrest certain groups of people.  Critics argue these laws do nothing more than target and criminalize people’s status as homeless, unemployed, alcoholics, drug addicts, panhandlers, gamblers, etc.  Do you think these laws are legitimate regulations protecting the public OR do they criminalize poverty, homelessness, and misfortune?  Explain and provide support for your response using examples (e.g., link to a case, news story, video, etc.).  Discuss at least 2 recommendations that you think would be constructive alternatives to these criminalizing statutes.

How To Write Effective Online Discussions

Online discussions help foster a collaborative learning environment and provide opportunities for us to engage outside the classroom setting and consider different perspectives among peers.  Please be sure to complete the discussion board assignments (due Sundays 11:59 pm).

  • The first post should be your own meaningful and relevant comment on the question presented (min 100 words).
  • The remaining posts should be thoughtful responses to at least two other student’s posts (min 50 words each).
  • Be thorough and complete in your engagement.  Please do not ride the line on the minimum requirements, particularly the word counts, which do not include the salutation (e.g., “Hi Suzie”).

All posts should be:

Responsive To The Question

Please complete the assignment and answer the question that is asked.  Discuss the implications/issues directly.  Resist the temptation to go off on tangents and ramble about unrelated topics. Keep the post on the subject matter.

Substantive In Content

Your comments must be substantive and relevant to the course concepts.  Posts should be in your own words and demonstrate your own critical thinking.  This is your opportunity to examine and build on the readings and course concepts beyond the classroom.

Thoughtful & Meaningful

You are expected to critically analyze the discussion prompt.  Posts should extend the conversation beyond the classroom in a meaningful way.  Please don’t just repeat what others have already said.  Your responses should not be cursory.  For example, it would not be sufficient to simply express, “Suzie, I completely agree with everything you said.”  or  “Tom, I really like your post.”  These do not meet the basic standard for meaningful engagement that is required for this course.  Instead, consider making a new point on the topic, offer new examples, suggest ideas for improvement, provide insight from a different perspective on the issue, or ask a constructive question that has not been addressed so far in the discussion.

Well-Written

This is a college level course, and I expect college level writing.  Pay attention to sentence construction, proper capitalization, proper punctuation, subject (noun)-verb agreement, correct and consistent use of tense, proper use of possessives (singular and plural), and correct spelling.  Keep it professional and refrain from using text messaging language.  Please proof-read your responses before you submit.  Consider drafting your response in a Word document first to utilize the spelling/grammar check and word count features.  Then you can copy/paste your text into the discussion board when you’re ready to submit.

 

Be sure to review the Discussion Rubric to see how your assessments will be graded.

Before You Post Checklist:

Before you post your discussion, take a quick moment to double-check your work and ask yourself these questions:

  1. Did I provide an original post and two different reply posts?
  2. Did I answer substantively and thoroughly answer the question prompt and engage with my peers?
  3. Did I meet the minimum word count requirement?
  4. Did I proofread my work?
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