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September 28, 2022

Some intriguing examples of Ohio criminal cases in which causation was a debated issue

As I briefly mentioned in class, Ohio tends to adopt a more "common law" account and approach to causation doctrines (similar to California's approach in Rhoades).  But, because both actual and legal cause is readily proven in almost all cases, the legal specifics often do not really make much of a difference.  Still, I thought you might be intrigued by the facts of some of the (quite rare) 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 some of these sad cases (but feel absolutely NO obligation to do so):

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.

September 28, 2022 in Notable real cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 26, 2022

A few US Supreme Court and Ohio Supreme Court cases involving causation and deaths from drug dealing

Especially because I have given some attention to the (still-growing) problem of drug overdose deaths and possible criminal responsibility therefore, I wanted to flag for you a couple of relatively recent cases dealing with causation issues in this context.  You are NOT required or even expected to read these cases (especially because the Ohio ruling is more than a bit confusing), but I thought you might find it interesting to see the settings in which courts now most commonly confront the kinds of causation issues that we are discussing this week.  Here are links to these two  rulings, along with the start of the courts' opinions in each case:

From the US Supreme Court:

Burrage v. United States, 571 U.S. 204 (2014):  "The Controlled Substances Act imposes a 20-year mandatory minimum sentence on a defendant who unlawfully distributes a Schedule I or II drug, when 'death or serious bodily injury results from the use of such substance.' 21 U.S.C. §841(a)(1), (b)(1)(A)–(C) (2012 ed.).  We consider whether the mandatory-minimum provision applies when use of a covered drug supplied by the defendant contributes to, but is not a but-for cause of, the victim’s death or injury."

From the Ohio Supreme Court:

State v. Price, 162 Ohio St.3d 609 (2020): "In this discretionary appeal from the Eighth District Court of Appeals, which also certified a conflict between its judgment and a judgment of the Fifth District Court of Appeals, we consider whether a trial court, when instructing a jury on the causation element of the offense of corrupting another with drugs, is required to inform the jury that it must find not only that the accused’s conduct was the 'but-for' cause of serious physical harm to the victim — i.e., that without the accused’s conduct, the injury would not have occurred — but also that it was an 'independently sufficient cause' of that harm."

September 26, 2022 | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 22, 2022

A notable federal version/variation on the Bray case and its significant real-world impact

As we wrap up our mens rea unit with a discussion of "mistakes of law," the Bray case from California demonstrated that certain kinds of "mistakes" about legal issues (about an element of an offense that has a required mens rea) can still matter.  Though Bray is an older case focused on state law decided by a state court, recently the U.S. Supreme Court considered a similar issue in Rehaif v. United States, 139 S. Ct. 2191 (2019).  Here is how Justice Breyer's opinion for the Court in Rehaif gets started:

A federal statute, 18 U.S.C. § 922(g), provides that “[i]t shall be unlawful” for certain individuals to possess firearms. The provision lists nine categories of individuals subject to the prohibition, including felons and aliens who are “illegally or unlawfully in the United States.” Ibid.  A separate provision, §924(a)(2), adds that anyone who “knowingly violates” the first provision shall be fined or imprisoned for up to 10 years. (Emphasis added.)

The question here concerns the scope of the word “knowingly.” Does it mean that the Government must prove that a defendant knew both that he engaged in the relevant conduct (that he possessed a firearm) and also that he fell within the relevant status (that he was a felon, an alien unlawfully in this country, or the like)?  We hold that the word “knowingly” applies both to the defendant’s conduct and to the defendant’s status.  To convict a defendant, the Government therefore must show that the defendant knew he possessed a firearm and also that he knew he had the relevant status when he possessed it.

Can folks see how this federal case is quite similar to Bray?  Also, some might find interesting (but nobody needs to read) this recent law review article discussing Rehaif titled "Does Mens Rea Matter?."  Here is the article's abstract:

Does mens rea matter to the criminal legal system?  Our study addresses this question by performing the first-ever empirical analysis of a culpable mental state’s impact on administration of a criminal statute.  We focus on the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2019 decision in Rehaif v. United States, which applied a culpable knowledge requirement to the federal felon-in-possession statute, 18 U.S.C. § 922(g). 

Prior to Rehaif, federal courts uniformly treated the critical objective element under 922(g) — whether a firearm or ammunition possessor meets the conditions for one of nine prohibited legal categories — as a question of fact for which an actor could be held strictly liable.  Adding a knowledge requirement to this element resulted in a significant decline in the likelihood of a defendant being charged with 922(g), the number of 922(g) charges per defendant, the total number of defendants charged with 922(g), and the total number of 922(g) charges filed each month. 

We estimate that these charging reductions prevented 2,365.32 convictions and eliminated 8,419.06 years of prison sentences for 922(g) violations during the eight-month period following issuance of the Rehaif opinion.  At the same time, prosecutors were just as likely to secure convictions of those they charged with 922(g) after the Rehaif decision as they were before it.  All told, our study suggests that adding culpable mental states to criminal statutes can meaningfully constrain prosecutorial discretion, lower convictions, and reduce punishment without bringing criminal administration to a halt.

September 22, 2022 in Notable real cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 19, 2022

Reviewing how Rhode Island changed its child abuse law after Lima

As I discussed in class, though our casebook mentions how the New York legislature amended its drug statutes after Ryan, it fails to mention how the Rhode Island legislature responded to the Lima case. Here is the 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. The child abuse statute implicated in Lima, § 11-9-5.3(a), provided, in pertinent part, that "[w]henever any * * * [caretaker] * * * abuses [a] child by inflicting upon said child a physical injury, to the extent the child is permanently disfigured or disabled, he or she shall be guilty of child abuse in the first degree * * *." General Laws 1956 (1981 Reenactment) § 11-9-5.3, as amended by P.L.1983, ch. 179, § 1.  Evidence introduced at trial showed that the defendant told the child's father that she had intentionally put the child in the bathtub to wash him, but had not first checked the water temperature, which, unbeknownst to the defendant, was far too hot.  Lima, 546 A.2d at 771.  The trial justice instructed the jury on the elements of the child abuse statute, but did not instruct the jury that intent was a necessary element of the crime charged.  Id.  The defendant appealed, alleging that the trial justice committed error when he refused to instruct the jury that an intentional act was required.  Id.  This Court held that the trial justice's refusal to so instruct the jury constituted reversible error.  Id. at 772.  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)).  Pursuant to this standard, we directed the trial justice on remand to instruct the jury accordingly, to "protect [][the] defendant from a conviction predicated upon an act devoid of mens rea while at the same time protecting a class of defenseless victims from physical abuse." Id.

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..... [where] our concern was the possibility that the jury convicted the defendant without finding that she had acted with a mens rea.

September 19, 2022 in Notable real cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 14, 2022

A "missing mental state" and a federal proposal for mens rea reform

As we start turning more deeply into mens rea issues, there are lots of topics we will cover (too) quickly that generate broad and deep academic and political debates.  I will sometimes use this space to highlight some of this broader debate, especially if I mention the debate in class in some way. (Critically, you should feel no obligation to read more than these posts, which are just intended to give you a feel for the debate.)  So, two items as follow up from our recent classes:

1. I mentioned in class the work of OSU Law's Alan Michaels on mental states titled "Acceptance: The Missing Mental State."  You can download the full 105-page(!) manuscript at this link, though I would recommend being content with this summary from the paper's abstract:

This article identifies a serious shortcoming in the traditional criminal law mental state hierarchy and proposes a new mental state -- called acceptance -- as a solution.  Acceptance exists where the actor acts recklessly and, in addition, would have acted even "had he known" that his conduct would "cause the harm."  The article establishes, through close analysis of the willful blindness and depraved-heart murder doctrines, that use of the mental state of acceptance is both practicable and necessary.

When liability lines are drawn at the level of knowledge, the criminal law has rarely been satisfied to restrict liability to actual knowledge, but instead has relied on ambiguously defined crimes (such as depraved-heart murder) or has stretched the definition of knowledge (for example, through the willful blindness doctrine) to push reckless conduct across the liability line to the knowledge side.  These "solutions" have failed.  When contemporary criminal law draws a significant liability line between knowledge and recklessness, doctrine governing cases near the margin is both particularly vague and distinctly lacking in consensus in comparison to most areas of the criminal law.

The article proposes that where the law requires knowledge, acceptance should be allowed to suffice.  After justifying such an approach from both retributive and utilitarian perspectives, the article establishes, by examining the willful blindness and depraved-heart murder doctrines, that using acceptance would yield a better fit between criminal law and culpability concepts and would substantially diminish vagueness problems.

2. I mentioned in class that federal criminal law has never been fully or formally revised since the Model Penal Code was developed.  But there are often proposals for all sorts of reviews, and here is the full text from a notable press release, "Sens. Lee, Tillis, and Paul Introduce Mens Rea Reform Act," from last year describing a federal criminal law reform proposal:

Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah), Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) yesterday introduced the Mens Rea Reform Act of 2021, a bill that aims to reduce overcriminalization, rein in excessive regulation, and curb overzealous prosecutions.

As the power of the federal government has grown in size and scope, regulators and prosecutors have found ways to penalize activities that most Americans would view as innocent or non-criminal.  As a result, ordinary Americans have found themselves facing jail time for supposedly “criminal” activities like abandoning a snowmobile on federal land, accidentally diverting sewage backups to the wrong drain, or unknowingly selling goods to the wrong person.  In each of these cases, the government did not have to prove that the person knew or intended to commit a crime; they simply had to prove that the person committed the action.

Current federal law criminalizes all kinds of activities that most people would not know were criminal.  For example, “[p]lacing a vehicle or other object in such a manner that it is an impediment . . . to the . . . convenience of any person” on federal property or writing a check for less than $1 could earn someone six months in prison.  These crimes do not require the government to demonstrate that someone intended to do something wrong — merely that they engaged in the prohibited conduct.

Additionally, many of these so-called “criminal” statutes were written by unelected bureaucrats.  Agency regulators and prosecutors have used laws like the Clean Water Act for decades to punish conduct most Americans would view as innocent, or at least not criminal.

“Prosecutors should have to show a suspect had a guilty mind, not just that they committed an illegal act, before an American citizen is put behind bars,” Sen. Lee said. “Unfortunately, our federal laws contain far too many provisions that do not require prosecutors to prove a defendant intended to commit a crime. The result is a criminal justice system that over-penalizes innocent acts, which only undermines the rule of law.”

“We’ve unfortunately seen too many instances of commonsense and restraint not being used in the prosecution of Americans for innocent acts with no criminal intent,” said Sen. Tillis. “Our legislation will help curb unfair overcriminalization by requiring prosecutors to demonstrate guilty intent.”

The Mens Rea Reform Act would end this wrongful government overreach by establishing a default intent standard for all criminal laws and regulations. In other words, if a law does not require proof that the defendant intended to commit a crime, prosecutors would still have to demonstrate that the defendant possessed a guilty mind in order to convict.

Read the full bill text here.

September 14, 2022 in Course materials and schedule, Notable real cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 8, 2022

Proposal for a new Ohio statute: "Criminal crashing while driving in rain"

Hydroplaning-accidentTo start our exploration of mens rea issues, and also to facilitate a focused conversation concerning a timely legislative proposal seeking to reduce roadway harms, here is some background information about dangerous realities on our roads and highways. First, from the Federal Highway Administration (data from 2007 to 2016, with emphasis added):

On average, nearly 5,000 people are killed and over 418,000 people are injured in weather-related crashes each year. The vast majority of most weather-related crashes happen on wet pavement and during rainfall: 70% on wet pavement and 46% during rainfall. A much smaller percentage of weather-related crashes occur during winter conditions.

And from the car press (in 2019), under the headline "Why Driving In The Rain Is Way More Dangerous Than You Think" (with emphasis added):

[A] new study has shown that even light rain can significantly raise the chances of a fatal car crash. Published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society..., the study asserts that rain, snow, and ice increases the risk of fatal car crashes by a massive 34 percent. Led by Scott Stevens, a data analyst and meteorologist at the North Carolina Institute for Climate Studies, he and his colleagues reviewed 125,012 deadly crashes in the Lower 48 states between 2006 and 2011, factoring in the number of cars on the road to calculate the risk of a fatal accident.

It turns out that even light rain, which Stevens refers to as a "a drizzle, just at the point where you might consider taking an umbrella out," raises the risk of a fatal crash by 27 percent.  While people tend to become cautious in heavy rain, Stevens believes that "they under-appreciate the risk of light rain," with the weather radar data showing an increase in fatal crashes even in rain of less than one-tenth of an inch per hour.  Moderate rain brings the risk of a deadly accident up to 75 percent greater than in clear weather, while in heavy rain the rate skyrockets to two-and-a-half times more likely.

And, with the latest concerning traffic data, consider excerpts from this May 2022 press release from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and from this additional August 2022 press release also from NHTSA:

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has released its early estimate of traffic fatalities for 2021. NHTSA projects that an estimated 42,915 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes last year, a 10.5% increase from the 38,824 fatalities in 2020. The projection is the highest number of fatalities since 2005 and the largest annual percentage increase in the Fatality Analysis Reporting System’s history. Behind each of these numbers is a life tragically lost, and a family left behind....

“This crisis on our roads is urgent and preventable,” said Dr. Steven Cliff, NHTSA’s Deputy Administrator. “We will redouble our safety efforts, and we need everyone – state and local governments, safety advocates, automakers, and drivers – to join us.  All of our lives depend on it.”  


NHTSA estimates that 9,560 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes in the first quarter of 2022. This is an increase of about 7% as compared to the 8,935 fatalities projected for the same quarter in 2021. This would be the highest number of first-quarter fatalities since 2002....

“The overall numbers are still moving in the wrong direction. Now is the time for all states to double down on traffic safety. Through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, there are more resources than ever for research, interventions and effective messaging and programs that can reverse the deadly trend and save lives,” said Dr. Steven Cliff, NHTSA’s Administrator.

Ohio Senator JoJo Beesafer has been deeply concerned about traffic safety issues ever since her college days after one of her best friends was killed by a drunk driver who was speeding and swerving on a country road during a summer thunderstorm.  Senator Beesafer has sponsored a number of bills seeking to increase punishment and enforcement efforts for driving under the influence.  Now, moved by the call for states to "redouble our safety efforts" and "double down on traffic safety," Senator Beesafer has drafted a novel new bill responding to concerns for the many thousands economically and/or physically harmed by crashes from persons driving in the rain without being aware of the risks (and/or not being sufficiently cautious while driving):

PROPOSED ORC Section 2999.99: Criminal Crashing While Driving in the Rain

(A) No person shall cause physical harm to another person or damage the property of another while driving in the rain.

(B) Whoever violates this section is guilty of criminal crashing while driving in the rain, a misdemeanor of the second degree.  If a violation causes any physical harm to any person or causes property damage in excess of $10,000, this offense is a misdemeanor of the first degree.  

We will discuss the potential pros and cons of this bill in class this coming week.  Everyone should feel free to use the comments to express any comments or concerns now; proposed amendments to this bill are welcome as well.

September 8, 2022 in Course materials and schedule | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 4, 2022

Real-life case from Australia involving an immoral photographer taking pictures rather than aiding

We will wrap up our quick discussion of omission liability on Wednesday by reviewing the Jones case closely and returning to the topic of who could and should be charged with a crime for letting little Josephine drown in my pool hypothetical.  (We will also get started on the topic of voluntariness with the Martin and Grant cases.)  I have been using the pool hypothetical in class for many years, and often students laugh when I describe the hard-to-believe character of a photojournalist student taking pictures of Josephine drowning rather than doing anything to help.  Indeed, I have long worried this part of my pool hypothetical was too outrageous to seem plausible.  

But last year, a student in this class told me about a recent real-life example of an immoral photographer — kind of like the photo-journalist in my baby-drowning-at-pool hypo — who was subject to a creative prosecution in Australia.  This 2021 press story, headlined "Richard Pusey: Australian jailed for filming dying officers," provides these details:

An Australian man has received a 10-month jail sentence for filming and mocking police officers as they lay dying at a crash scene.  Last month Richard Pusey pleaded guilty to the rare charge of outraging public decency, as well as other offences.

The 42-year-old has already been in custody for nearly 300 days, so he will probably complete his sentence within days. The sentencing judge called his actions "heartless, cruel and disgraceful".

Still, families of the victims were disappointed with the length of the sentence in a case that has stirred huge public anger.  Last month, Judge Trevor Wraight said the media had demonised Pusey to the point where he was "probably the most hated man in Australia".

The mortgage broker had been speeding in his car on a Melbourne freeway last year when he was pulled over by four officers. While they were making his arrest, all four were struck by a lorry that had veered out of its lane.

Senior Constables Lynette Taylor and Kevin King, and Constables Glen Humphris and Josh Prestney died at the scene. Pusey had been standing a few metres away and avoided the crash, but afterwards pulled out his phone and began filming numerous videos, some of which ran for more than three minutes.  The court had heard that Pusey stood over and taunted Senior Constable Taylor as she remained pinned under the lorry. Experts said she was most likely still alive at the time....

He fled the scene on Melbourne's Eastern Freeway shortly after.  The next day he was arrested at his home and initially charged with speeding, drug possession and reckless conduct offences.  However, police then also discovered Pusey's video and that he had shared it among friends.

The lorry driver, Mohinder Singh, was jailed earlier this month to 22 years for the deaths.  A court found that the truck driver had been high on drugs, suffering delusions and hallucinations, and driving erratically when he ploughed his truck into the officers.

Judge Wraight condemned Pusey's behaviour while noting he was only being sentenced for his actions.  Pusey hadn't caused the deaths of the officers, contrary to some public opinion, the judge said.  "Your conduct in recording the police officers in their dying moments, together with the words you used as you recorded, was not only derogatory and horrible... but it was also callous and reprehensible conduct," Judge Wraight said.

He noted that Pusey had a history of mental health problems, including a complex personality disorder "which may go some way to explaining your behaviour". But he said it did not excuse his actions....

Families and supporters of the police officers criticised the sentence after it was handed down in Victoria's County Court. Stuart Schulze, the husband of Constable Taylor, said he felt "almost unbearable" pain every time he remembered how his wife was treated in her final moments.  "This sentence is totally inappropriate of this offending," Mr Schulze told reporters outside court.  He argued it was the court's duty to "set the appropriate standard" in penalising such behaviour.

The offence of outraging public decency has rarely been prosecuted in Australia, and the charge carries no set penalty. The head of Victoria state's police union also criticised the sentence. "Four upstanding heroes died on that day and… one soulless coward lived," Wayne Gatt said.

For anyone so interested, here is a link to the sentencing opinion in DPP v. Pusey.  Relatedly, law professor Jonathan Turley discusses this case in this blog post and highlights that, in the United States, Richard Pusey could not have been prosecuted for failing to aid the officers (though it is not clear he was prosecuted for that crime in Australia, either).

September 4, 2022 in Course materials and schedule, Notable real cases | Permalink | Comments (0)