HO 07 Mens Rea II ntroduction by 1YJWzRJ6

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									Criminal Law                                                                      Professor Beres
Handout #7                                                                        Fall 2006


                                  INTRODUCTION TO MENS REA

The mens rea for a crime is the particular state of mind required by the offense definition. It is
the mental state the offender must have when he or she performs the actus reus

                                          Sample Statutes:

Statute 1: “A person is guilty of 2o murder if he/she purposely causes the death of another
person”


Statute 2: “A person is guilty of 2o murder if he/she intentionally causes the death of another
person”


Statute 3: “A person is guilty of murder if he/she wickedly or maliciously causes the death of
another person”


Statute 4: “A person is guilty of murder if he/she causes the death of another”



Historical Development of Mens Rea

Regina v. Cunningham (Ct of Criminal Appeal (England) 1957)
Statute: “Whosoever shall unlawfully and maliciously administer to or cause to be administered
to or taken by any other person any poison or destructive or noxious thing, so as to endanger the
life of such person, or so as to thereby to inflict upon such person any grievous bodily harm, shall
be guilty of felony. . . .”


Q: What was the required actus reus? What act did Cunningham commit so as to fall within the
statute?



Q: What was the issue in the case?




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Q: What error did the appellate court find in the trial court’s instruction?



Q: What did the appellate court state the prosecutor had to show to prove Cunningham
“maliciously” caused Mrs. Wade to be poisoned?



Q: Did the court believe it is likely Cunningham would have been convicted if the jury received
the correct instructions?



United States v. Yermian (Supreme Court 1984)
Statute: 18 U.S.C. § 1001:
“Whoever, in any matter within the jurisdiction of any department or agency of the United States
knowingly and willfully . . . makes any false, fictitious or fraudulent statements or
representations, . . . shall be fined . . . .”


Q: What were the false statements Yermian made on his questionnaire?



Q: What was Yermian’s argument at trial / in district court as to why he should not be
convicted?



Q: What was the holding of the Court of Appeals of the Ninth Circuit?



Q: What was the issue before the Supreme Court?



Q: What was the Supreme Court’s holding? What was the Court’s rationale for its holding, i.e.
what factors did the Court use to interpret the statute?



Q: What was the dissent’s argument as to why the statute should be interpreted differently?


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