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October 29, 2016

If you are eager to learn more about the sad particulars behind the Welanksy case...

here is a documentary with a partial recreation of the events at Coconut Grove: 

October 29, 2016 in Notable real cases | Permalink | Comments (1)

October 28, 2016

"Man sentenced to 13 years in fatal shooting"

Another interesting local story, available here, provides another window into how unclear facts and lawyers influence homicide outcome both in terms  of Ohio charges and ultimate sentencing.

October 28, 2016 in Notable real cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 26, 2016

Another local Ohio homicide (involving murder and voluntary manslaughter charges) worth thinking about...

which I believe made national news back in the summer and is in the papers again this afternoon:

October 26, 2016 in Current Affairs, Notable real cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 19, 2016

Some local Ohio homicide headlines

As we move into our "specific crimes" unit of our course, the laws we are reviewing are often going to be central to real cases that frequently generate news coverage. For example, just today's Columbus Dispatch includes these two new Ohio homicide stories:

October 19, 2016 in Current Affairs, Notable real cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 17, 2016

Seeking a California defense attorney for Joe Shooter....

because every other position is filled for Wednesday's role play.  Here is the line-up (as well as the expected order of events):

 

California v. Joe Shooter

Prosecutor:  Chance Johnson

Defense Attorney:  _________

 

Kansas v. Joe Shooter

Prosecutor:  Abbey Zeller

Defense Attorney:  Elizabeth Hartman

 

Ohio v. Joe Shooter

Prosecutor:  Claudia Cash

Defense Attorney:  Erica Duff

 

If nobody volunteers for the last open role, I suppose I will have to defend Joe Shooter in California, but I am certain I will do a much worse job than would a capable student (and I already treat myself to too many beers). Also, to help both lawyers and jurors, here you can find a "verdict" form to help you work through the homicide charging options in each jurisdiction:

Download Shooter-verdict-form

October 17, 2016 in Course materials and schedule | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 13, 2016

"Ballot Questions In Three States May Affect Death Penalty Nationwide"

The title of this post is the headline of this Nebraska NPR piece which talks reviews some of the issues we discussed in class on Wednesday and may prove helpful for anyone doing the death-penalty extra credit and/or making election predictions.

October 13, 2016 in Class reflections, Course materials and schedule, Research assignment | Permalink | Comments (1)

October 12, 2016

Class schedule and activities for week of October 17

Because I had way too much fun, and was disinclined to make you do any "real" work in your last class before the break (and also forgot to hand out the Joe Shooter facts in class), I think we now need to tweak my plans for the week of October 17.  Here is my new/latest thinking:

Monday, Oct 17:  Finally finish causation doctrines, preview rest of class (getting Part II of syllabus), introduce homicide unit, and explain context, value, roles for Joe Shooter role play.

Wednesday, Oct 19Do Joe Shooter role play and discuss its many lessons

Friday, Oct 21:  Celebrate my birthday ... by discussing intentional homicides (Watson and Walker, pp. 346-363 in text), and then watching 53-minute long documentary on American prisons, and then happy hour.

October 12, 2016 in Class reflections, Course materials and schedule | Permalink | Comments (0)

Starting homicide doctrines starting with Joe Shooter role play

Next week we will begin our in-depth discussions of homicide laws and we get started with another role-play.  To get off to a running start, here is a link to the Joe Shooter facts (which I am also handing out in class), along with an encouragement for folks to sign up (in the comments and/or via an e-mail) to play the role of either prosecutor or defense attorney on Joe Shooter's behalf in California (a common-law-influenced jurisdiction) or Kansas (an MPC-influenced jurisdiction) or Ohio (a little of everything).

This time around, we only really need one lawyer for each side -- so 6 total volunteers, a single prosecutor and a single defense attorney for each state.  In addition to the usual offer of future happy hour celebration, volunteers this time around can know that they will be rewarded for their efforts by being assured they get a really good running start at tackling homicide doctrines

So, review the Shooter facts and sign on up in the comments or via an e-mail to me.

UPDATE:  We have our Ohio lawyers, Claudia Cash has volunteered to prosecute and Erica Duff volunteered to be the defense attorney in Ohio.  Thanks, and know now that I think, after having had too much fun in class today, that I am pushing back the role play to Wednesday (10/19).  Watch this space (i.e., this new post) with more details.

And Elizabeth Hartman has now signed up to be the Kansas defense attorney, and now Chance Johnson is to be the California prosecutor.  Two spots left.

October 12, 2016 in Course materials and schedule, Starting a career as a lawyer | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 10, 2016

For a useful set of perspectives on the death penalty in Ohio and elsewhere...

check out this 50-minute local WOSU/NPR segment from last week.  Here is the overview of what you will hear:

Support for the death penalty has been on the decline and recently hit a a record, four decade low. Despite the decline, legislators in many states continue to back capital punishment. Today we discuss Ohio as it prepares to reinstate the death penalty after a two year hiatus, and look at how Nebraska ended the practice.

  • Jim Petro, Former Ohio Attorney General

  • Robert Blecker, Professor of Criminal law and Constitutional law, New York Law School; and Author, “The Death of Punishment: Searching for Justice among the Worst of the Worst”

  • Colby Coash, Nebraska State Senator

October 10, 2016 in Course materials and schedule, Current Affairs, Notable real cases | Permalink | Comments (1)

October 8, 2016

If you have any pre-midterm questions...

ask your classmates, and if they do not have a ready answer, just relax about it.  

But if you cannot relax, and think I can help, ask the question in the comments here and I will try to respond so all can see/hear.

UPDATE:  I just saw this good question in a prior thread:

Student Q: "Professor Berman, when using rules from the MPC/ORC to answer the exam questions, do we need to specifically cite which section of the MPC/ORC the rule is coming from?"

Berman A: There is need to cite to a precise/specific code provision if you can make the substantive point effectively without doing so, but you may often find it more efficient to be able to cite to a specific code section rather than to have to explain the point you want to make in extended prose.

 

October 8, 2016 in Preparing for the final | Permalink | Comments (2)

October 5, 2016

Four interesting examples of Ohio criminal cases in which causation was a debated issue

To finish our review of the "general part" of the criminal law, we will dig further into the law of causation.  In that review, I will note that Ohio tends to adopt a more "common law" approach to causation doctrines than an MPC approach, but I will also explain why this is a distinction that does not really make much of a difference in all but the rarest of cases.  Still, I thought it might be useful here to note the facts of a couple of the rarest of Ohio criminal cases in which causation doctrines were discussed.  So, if you want to take a deep dive into some notable Ohio causation cases, consider checking out:

1.  Ohio v Lovelace, 137 Ohio App. 3d 206 (1st Dist. App. 1999), gets started this way:

The issue in this appeal is whether a person who leads police on a high-speed car chase can be found guilty of involuntary manslaughter when one of the police cruisers in pursuit runs a stop sign and collides with another vehicle, killing the driver. The answer turns on whether the evidence was sufficient to support the jury's finding that the defendant-appellant, Paul Wayne Lovelace, should have foreseen the fatal accident as a consequence of his own reckless behavior. At the time of the accident, Lovelace was driving a stolen car and had already led Ohio and Kentucky police on a multi-car chase that reached speeds of one hundred miles per hour, crossed back and forth over the Ohio River, and caused several collisions and near collisions in both states.

Lovelace argues that he cannot be guilty of involuntary manslaughter because he could not possibly have foreseen that the officer would disregard the stop sign — although he had done so himself only moments before.  In his view, the police officer's failure to stop was an intervening cause of the accident, absolving him of criminal responsibility.  Lovelace also contends that his trial was unfair because the trial court's evidentiary rulings deprived him of the opportunity to present crucial evidence, and because the jury instructions misled the jury on the critical issue of proximate cause.

2.  Ohio v Voland, 716 N.E.2d 299 (Ohio Com. Pl. 1999), involves these essential facts:

[T]he defendant, while under administrative license suspension growing out of her arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol, drove her vehicle from the western side of Hamilton County to the Cincinnati Sand Volleyball Courts ... accompanied on that drive and at the courts by her daughter, Alexandria, age four, and a cousin, Ashley Weaver, age twelve.... At some point after her arrival at the Cincinnati Sand Volleyball Courts, Voland was approached by her cousin, Ashley Weaver, who complained that she was hot and bored. Ashley Weaver was watching Voland’s daughter, Alexandria.

At that time, the defendant gave her twelve-year-old cousin the keys to her car so that Ashley could get in and start the car to permit the air conditioning to work, allowing Ashley and Alexandria to cool off and wait while defendant played volleyball.  The two children got into the car, started the car, turned on the air conditioning, and listened to the radio. They played in the car while the engine was running, in excess of ninety minutes unattended, with the exception of one visit by defendant. During the one visit, defendant did not notice any attempts to move the vehicle.

At approximately 8:10 p.m., with the two girls playing in the automobile and the engine running, the car lurched forward, over a parking block six to eight inches in height, across a short, grassy area of four to six feet, where the auto struck a fence. The fence, approximately six to eight feet in height, had a four-by-four post nailed vertically to it, apparently to seam two sections of the fence together. This fence post cracked and fell to the ground on the inside of the fence, striking Steven Smith in the head, causing injuries that resulted in his death.

3. Ohio v Dixon, 2002 WL 191582 (6th Dist. App. 2002), involves these essential facts:

Defendant Christopher Dixon, appeals from his conviction and sentence for felony murder [resulting from] Dixon and his cousin Sherman Lightfoot [making] plans to rob the Jiffy Lube located at 3931 Salem Avenue in Dayton, Ohio. In preparation for the robbery, Dixon and Lightfoot obtained latex gloves and “Jason” masks, which were popularized in the movie, “Friday the 13th.” At approximately 6:15 p.m., the two men drove a blue Camaro to the Jiffy Lube, parking it across the street. Dixon was wearing an orange-colored hooded sweatshirt, while Lightfoot was wearing a white hooded sweatshirt.

Dixon and Lightfoot entered the Jiffy Lube and Dixon grabbed one of the employees, Gregory Anderson. Lightfoot pointed a gun in Anderson's face, and the two robbers demanded to know where the money was located. Anderson told them it was in the office. Dixon and Lightfoot then took Anderson to the office. Anderson told them that only the manager had the key to the drawer where the money was kept. Lightfoot instructed Anderson to call for the manager. Anderson complied and the store manager, Michael McDonald, came to the office. At that point Lightfoot pointed the gun in McDonald's face.

McDonald began struggling with Lightfoot over the gun. During the struggle, the gun fired once. When Lightfoot momentarily stumbled and fell backward during the struggle, McDonald gained control over the gun.  Lightfoot immediately regained his balance, and both he and Dixon ran out of the store. McDonald fired several shots in the direction of the fleeing suspects. Dixon ran back to the Camaro, got in and sped away.  Lightfoot fell to the ground in the parking lot as a result of a gunshot wound to the head. Lightfoot subsequently died at Good Samaritan Hospital.

4. Ohio v Wilson, 182 Ohio App. 3d 171 (1st Dist. App. 2009), gets started this way:

Defendant-appellant Eric Wilson ... was charged with murder [and other counts based on activities] on September 1, 2006, [when] Wilson, a drug trafficker, was in his car driving around the area of East 59th Street and Francis Avenue selling drugs.  He stopped his car to meet with some buyers when James Yhonquea walked up, pulled out his gun, and put it against Wilson's head.  Yhonquea took Wilson's drugs, money, and cell phone and started to run down East 59th Street. Wilson jumped out of his car and started to run after Yhonquea. Wilson began shooting at Yhonquea and fired off eight rounds, hitting a parked car and a house.  Yhonquea returned fire, hitting Wilson's car.

Asteve (“Cookie”) Thomas, a 12–year old girl who lived in the neighborhood, was walking home from the corner store with her friends when one of the bullets shot from Yhonquea's gun struck her in the chest. She managed to walk to a neighbor's house, collapsed, and died approximately 30 minutes later.

October 5, 2016 in Notable real cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 3, 2016

Prior posts with prior real and practice mid-term exams

Happy exciting October ... which is made even more exciting because a week from today you will all get the opportunity to get your first law school exam behind you.  Though I suspect many may fall prey to the common tendency to prepare too much rather than too little for the (not-all-that-important) mid-term, I also suspect my tendency to write exam questions that are crazy hard will tend to aggravate that common student tendency.

These concerns aside, and with the prior warning that all the prior exams you find are crazy hard, here are links to prior posts in which you can find links to prior mid-term exams.  Specifically, the first two links below are to the "practice" mid-term that I still offer when teaching a large-section class (and associated follow-up materials), and the other links provide through prior posts access to the actual mid-terms that I administered in 2013 and 2014:

Reflections on the practice exam experience

Practice exam feedback materials

For your review and enjoyment... my (too long) 2013 Crim Law mid-term

Materials and times for [2014] midterm review

October 3, 2016 in Preparing for the final | Permalink | Comments (3)