Juan hated his mother-in-law and decided to kill her. He bought some poison and was driving to her house to poison her tea when someone walked into the street from between two parked cars and Juan could not stop before hitting and killing the pedestrian. When he examined the body, Juan realized that he had killed his mother-in-law and he smiled. Should he be charged with murder? Why?
The concepts of mens rea and actus reus of crime are essential in criminal law. Consider each of the following scenarios and discuss whether both the actus reus and mens rea are present such that a criminal charge may be proven:
- Latisha enters a restaurant and sets her umbrella in the corner before going to her table and eating lunch. Before leaving the restaurant, she grabs what she mistakenly thinks is her umbrella and leaves. About a block down the street, it begins to sprinkle and Latisha opens the umbrella and realizes that it is not hers. She looks at it more closely, decides it is nicer than the one she started with, and decides to keep it. Should Latisha be charged with theft and if so, based on what?
- Arthur loves his 6-month-old daughter and only wants what is best for her so he drives her to the best day care each day. But one day he is preoccupied and forgets to drop her off before going to work. She is left in the car all day and dies. The prosecutor wants to charge Arthur for the homicide. Explain how the prosecutor can establish mensrea based on these facts.
- Li made fireworks and was extremely careful to use the highest safety precautions, but in spite of that, one of the firecrackers malfunctioned, killing Jean. Should Li be criminally charged with Jean’s death? Why?