People v. Burton, 491 P.2d 793 (1971)

Case Name: People v. Burton Citation:  491 P.2d 793 (1971)  Facts: Burton was committing the felony of armed robbery, during which he killed someone. He was arrested and charged with murder. At Trial, the Judge instructed the jury that they could find Burton guilty of first-degree murder if they found that the death happened as a result of the robbery, even if that death was unintentional. State’s argument: The doctrine of felony-murder applies because armed robbery is inherently dangerous to life. Defendant’s argument: An independent felonious purpose does not exist between the murder and the armed robbery. Holding: An independent felonious purpose does exist and the defendant can be charged with felony-murder. Reasoning: We look at the mind (mens rea) of the defendant committing the crime. The felony-murder doctrine is purposed to deter those committing felonies from killing people by holding them strictly liable for their...

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People v. Phillips, 414 P.2d 553 (1966)

Case Name: People v. Phillips Citation: 414 P.2d 553 (1966) Facts: At the hospital, the parents of a child with cancer were told that surgery was the only effective treatment. However, the defendant who was a chiropractor convinced the parents that he could cure the child. The child died and the defendant was charged with felony murder. The defendant was charged with grand theft medical fraud and the state tacked on a murder charge through the felony-murder doctrine. Felony murder is strict liability. Defendant’s argument: Felony-murder only applies to those felonies which are inherently dangerous to life. Inherently dangerous felonies do not include grand theft. Holding: The defendant cannot be charged with felony-murder. Reasoning: Neither common law nor the legislature has deemed grand theft as an inherently dangerous felony. If the defendant did not commit an inherently dangerous felony then he cannot be charged with...

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Nolan v. State, 213 Md. 298 (1957)

Case Name: Nolan v. State Citation: 213 Md. 298 (1957) Facts: Nolan was convicted of embezzlement but appealed because he believed he should have only been charged with theft. Nolan worked for a loan and collection company. As customers made payments, they were placed in the cash drawer and at the end of the day, Nolan would take some of the cash. Nolan’s accomplice, who prepared the report of daily cash receipts would then recompute the adding tapes to equal the remaining cash. State’s argument/Concurring Opinion: The Maryland Code only requires that the defendant be employed by the master, the defendant took the money into his own possession for and on behalf of his employer, and then he fraudulently appropriated it to his own use; the evidence seem to establish these elements to the satisfaction of the jury. Defendant’s argument: Nolan did not take the money until it had been placed in the cash drawer and balanced at the end of the day. He only took the goods out of the owner’s possession which constitutes larceny, not embezzlement. Holding: Reversed and remanded. Concurring: Justice Prescott argued that the majority made the distinction that the offense was larceny and not embezzlement because the money went into the drawers before its fraudulent conversion. This decision, he argues, seems to place the law in an unfortunate and somewhat indefensible...

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M’Naghten’s Case

Case Name: M’Naghten’s Case Citation: 8 Eng. Rep. 718 (1843) Facts: M’Naghten was indicted for the murder of the secretary to the prime minister when he sought to assassinate the prime minister. M’Naghten had many prominent medical experts that provided testimony that he suffered from acute insanity. The jury returned a verdict of “not guilty, on the ground of insanity.” The discussion surrounds questions that were asked by the House of Lords to the English judiciary about when a jury would be charged with determining the defense of insanity. The House of Lords wanted to have a better policy on when the defense of insanity could be used. Legal Answer: The House of Lords determined that “every man is to be presumed to be sane” until the “contrary be proved to their satisfaction.” The House required that to establish a defense on the ground of insanity, it must be clearly proved that, at the time of the committing of the act, the party accused was laboring under such a defect of reason, from disease of the mind, as not to know the nature and quality of the act he was doing; or if he did know it, that he did not know he was doing what was wrong – this should not be a question of “actual knowledge of the law of the land” but the presumption that everyone must be taken conclusively to know it, without proof that he does know...

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State v. Toscano, 74 N.J. 421 (1977)

Case Name: State v. Toscano Citation: 74 N.J. 421 (1977) Facts: Toscano was charged with conspiracy to obtain money by false pretenses (through insurance fraud). At trial, Toscano testified that he was under duress after Leonardo, the conspiracy organizer, made threats to Toscano and his wife. The trial judge did not allow the jury to consider the Toscano’s evidence of duress. State’s argument: Toscano was not under duress because there was not a threat of impending death or serious bodily harm that was imminent, present, and pending. Toscano could have sought police protection and help. Defendant’s argument: The trial court should have allowed Toscano’s evidence of duress because it was because of the threats to him and his wife that he was involved in the conspiracy to begin with. Holding: Remanded for new trial. Reasoning: Toscano provided a factual basis that he and his wife were threatened with physical violence if he refused to assist in the fraudulent scheme. A jury may have found that the threats induced a reasonable...

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Durham v. State, 199 Ind. 567 (1927)

Case Name: Durham v. State Citation: 199 Ind. 567 (1927) Facts: Durham, the defendant and a deputy game warren, tried to arrest Long for illegal fishing. Long resisted, tried to flee, and beat Durham with an oar to get away. Durham then shot Long. Durham was convicted of assault and battery. State’s argument: To adopt a rule that a state official cannot use extreme force to capture a misdemeanant would render the state powerless and permit misdemeanants to “stay the power of the state by unlawful resistance.” Defendant’s argument: An officer may use force that is reasonably necessary to accomplish the arrest of a misdemeanant but cannot kill or inflict great bodily harm just for the purpose of effecting the arrest. Holding: The judgment is reversed with a new trial. Reasoning: To not allow a state officer to use force in arresting, even a misdemeanant, will say to defendant’s, “You may measure strength with the arresting officer, and avoid being taken if you are the stronger.” In other words, the court does not want to elevate brute force to a position of command over the wheels of...

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