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September 29, 2014

Clarifying my mistake(s) about Rhode Island laws

So today's class proved I should stick to focusing on Ohio and Oliwood (MPC) laws, because clearly I am out of my element when I suggest I know about Rhode Island law.  I wrongly asserted that Rhode Island had not changed its law since it was interpreted in Lima, but the text of the statute (and a little post class research) proved I was flat-out wrong. 

Here is the complete and correct story via a subsequent Rhode Island ruling, State v. Sivo, 925 A.2d 901 (R.I. 2007):

In Lima, the defendant was convicted of first-degree child abuse for lowering a small child into a bathtub of scalding water, causing him to suffer permanent disfigurement or disability....  Because the child abuse statute in place at the time was entirely devoid of words of intent, we adopted a standard similar to that set forth in the Model Penal Code (MPC), requiring that “[w]hen the culpability sufficient to establish a material element of an offense is not prescribed by law, such element is established if a person acts purposely, knowingly or recklessly with respect thereto.” Lima, 546 A.2d at 772 (quoting Model Penal Code, § 2.02(3) at 226 (A.L.I. 1985))....

In the years after Lima, the General Assembly enacted numerous amendments to the first-degree child abuse statute.  What is most significant to the instant litigation is that, in 1995, the General Assembly added words of intent, prescribing punishment only for those individuals who “knowingly or intentionally” inflict a serious bodily injury upon a child.  These statutory words of intent effectively superseded the MPC-inspired words of intent we adopted in Lima..... [O]ur concern in Lima was the possibility that the jury convicted the defendant without finding that she had acted with a mens rea.

Id. at 913-14.  My sincere apologies for messing this up so badly in class today, and thanks to you all (especially Jason) for making sure I now got this right.

September 29, 2014 in Class reflections | Permalink


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