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October 1, 2018

Any questions or reactions to Joe Shooter role-play? ... UPDATED WITH RESULTS

In addition to thanking again our terrific state homicide lawyers (and apologizing again for limited time), I wanted to provide a space for any questions or other thoughts on the Shooter exercise. The primary point of the role-play was to preview homicide issues we will be working through in October. But the exercise may also prompt questions about matters of procedure and practice that I would be happy to field here or elsewhere.

As a preview to the start of our discussions next week, I urge everyone to think about (and perhaps comment upon) the ideal number of different types of homicide. You should notice that the drafters of the Model Penal Code decided there should only be three different types of homicide, but relatively few US jurisdictions has only three types of homicide crimes. In Ohio, if you include aggravated vehicular homicide and vehicular homicide, the Revised Code has nine different types of homicide.

Do you think it better for a modern criminal code to have fewer or to have more types of homicide?

What are some consequences and implications of one general criminal harm being subdivided into so many different offenses?

UPDATE on 10/2I now had the chance to tabulate the results of the submitted evaluation forms.  The full votes/results appear in the document linked below, and a plurality voted for a different result in California (voluntary manslaughter), Kansas (involuntary manslaughter) and Ohio (Murder).  Consider whether the pattern of outcomes tells us more about the unique law in the three different jurisdictions or about the unique choices made by the lawyers who presented the case in these jurisdictions.

Download 2018-shooter-results

October 1, 2018 in Course materials and schedule | Permalink


It is interesting to compare this year's Joe Shooter results to previous years' results (I was able to find 2008 and 2017 results archived on the blog). Assuming that the Joe Shooter facts have stayed the same over the years (and that the states have not updated/amended their homicide laws), it seems that the way the cases were argued did probably make a difference in the outcome. There were significant differences in how the classes chose to charge Mr. Shooter in 2008, 2017, and 2018.

For example, in 2008, just 33% of the class decided that Mr. Shooter should be charged with voluntary manslaughter in California. Contrastingly, this year 61% of the class determined that Shooter should be charged with voluntary manslaughter. That's a pretty significant difference. So, if Mr. Shooter committed his crime in 2008, he would likely be charged with murder in the second degree, whereas if committed the crime in 2018, he would likely be charged with voluntary manslaughter.

Disclaimer: I acknowledge that the majority opinion of any given class in a year is not necessarily how the defendant would actually be charged. I just think it is interesting to note the differences in the outcomes between years. This shows that deciding on charges for a crime is not as straightforward as one might think!

Posted by: Hannah Wirt | Oct 3, 2018 11:59:50 AM

Strong work, Hannah. I was planning to make this point --- and still will --- in class today.

Posted by: Doug B. | Oct 3, 2018 12:33:35 PM

Thanks for doing the math on that, Hannah!

I think it's interesting to consider how different factors affect the varying charges brought against Mr. Shooter from year to year. The power of the prosecutor to set the bar either high or low is a curiously (and frighteningly) powerful thing.

I wish there were more scientific ways to measure how certain political climates affect charges/sentencing. I think it's fair to say we're in a relatively fraught political climate with the Judge Kavanaugh drama constantly competing for our attention. I didn't give it much conscious thought during the exercise but was I affected by the emotions surging around me pertaining to power, gender, culpability and justice? How much do current events and social media politics affect our inclinations toward leniency or severity?

This is a self-indulgent and self-reflective thought exercise. I have zero answers to these questions!

Posted by: Emily Myrin | Oct 3, 2018 7:22:53 PM

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