Good Essay About Criminal Defences
In People v Andrew Goldstein (2004), the defendant, who is schizophrenic that had been institutionalized severally prior to the incident, alarmed other commuters of his erratic tendencies and shoved Kendra Webdale from a train station platform onto the tracks of an oncoming train, killing her. Goldstein pleaded insanity as a defence, and after initial trial had ended with a deadlocked jury; the second trial resulted in a conviction and a 25-year sentence for manslaughter. The insanity defence seeks to excuse crimes committed by individuals who cannot be held criminally responsible for their actions because of their mental incapacity or because they are children. For the defence to hold, the circumstances of the case must meet one or more of tests that include the McNaughton Rule (inability to distinguish between wrong and right); the irresistible impulse rule due to mental illness; the Durham rule (resulting from mental incapacity) and failure to act within the law due to mental defects. Goldstein’s defence was rejected on the strength of the prosecution’s argument that he was both calm and aware of what was happening when he grabbed and threw the victim to her death. He appealed arguing that the court erred in excluding the expert testimony on his extreme emotional disturbance.
In the State v. Anderson (1993), the defendant was convicted of carrying a pistol without permit in contravention of General Statutes § 29-35.2 and first-degree assault in contravention of General Statutes § 53a-59 (a) (1)1. The defendant had been involved in a late night craps game with a second party before they argued over money. Anderson pulled out a gun and shot the victim in the shoulder. The shot damaged the victim’s spinal cord, rendering him crippled. While the evidence presented by the defence and the state differed in a few material respects, Anderson insisted that he had acted in self-defence. Self-defense, defence of others and/or property is a criminal defence recognize the human being’s universal right to deploy proportional force to protect themselves, others and to a limited extent their property, from an imminent, unlawful and reasonable threat. According to the defence, Anderson presented evidence that he had gone to the victim’s home to ask for his money (as against playing the craps game), which the victim repeatedly refused to give to him, besides acting in a manner that aggravated the defendant to the extent that he shot the victim. They were standing in the kitchen and arguing when the victim demanded that he must not ask for money any more time because “I’m going to fuck you up””I’ll show you why”, before suddenly reaching for a drawer. The defendant then shot him.
In People v. Lee (1999), the defendant appealed for remedies in circumstances where the defendant had been found guilty for voluntary manslaughter when there was adequate evidence for a full murder conviction, but where the defence obtained voluntary manslaughter instructions, even when there was no evidential basis to negate malice aforethought if the defendant had killed intentionally. Effectively, the defence raised one of the criminal defences that negate Mens Rea. These defences refer to circumstances when defendants do not have the criminal intent, but commit crimes due to honest and reasonable mistakes regarding the factual matters that, if true, would have provided the justification of the actions or omissions that are now subject of the criminal prosecution. In People v. Lee (1999), the evidence was adequate to convict for second-degree murder but the court’s instructions to the jury caused a voluntary manslaughter finding due to the defendant's intoxication or passion.
In all the cases the excuse or justification that it was reasonable in the circumstances for the defendant to have conducted themselves as they did, whether in self-defence or because they lacked the mental faculties to appreciate the consequences of their actions. In People v Andrew Goldstein (2004), the defense centred on the defendant’s lack of criminal responsibility on account of his mental illness (excuse). On the other hand, in both the State v. Anderson (1993) and the People v. Lee (1999), the defenses centred on the reasonable justification of the actions by perfectly normal people, who were forced to commit unlawful actions in the circumstances that are reasonably justifiable.
The outcomes in the above cases depended on the evidential proof for the excuse/justification pleaded. In People v Andrew Goldstein (2004), the appellate court found that the defendant’s conviction based on his calm and collected manner at the material time was proper, since it meant that he did not have a diminished criminal responsibility at the time. While the trial court had precluded critical evidence, the preclusion was proper and also inconsequential since the expert report showed that he was fully aware of his actions. In State v. Anderson (1993), the court held that the imminence of the danger could not be proven. Further, it held that there is a significant difference between “complete safety” and “safety”, besides the fact that the defendant had the option of retreating, and thus upheld the conviction. Lastly, in People v. Lee (1999), the court reversed the criminal conviction, asserting that the there was no evidence that the defendant intend to kill his wife unlawfully or that he acted in conscious disregard of human life.
People v. Lee, 61 [82 Cal.Rptr.2d 625, 971 P.2d 1001] ( Cal.4th 47 1999).
The People of the State of New York, Respondent, v. Andrew Goldstein, Defendant-Appellant, 1 No. 155 (Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department, New York. Nov 30, 2004).
Neubauer, D., & Fradella, H. (2013). America's Courts and the Criminal Justice System. New York: Cengage Learning.
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