This unique casebook examines the underlying principles of criminal law—punishment, actus reus, and mens rea. It reflects the authors' viewpoint that the purpose of criminal law is to reflect the moral standards of our society and to punish those who, with culpability and awareness, violate these moral norms. Not a study of particular crimes per se, the materials do focus on several crimes whose characteristics illuminate these basic foundations and principles of criminal law.
The law of homicide is examined to exemplify the problem of grading offenses for purposes of imposing punishment, sometimes the ultimate penalty of death for certain homicides. The crime of rape is investigated for essentially two reasons:
to illustrate the role historical social stereotypes (in this case, sexual ones) play in the law and to examine the problems created in redefining legal doctrine when those stereotypes are seriously challenged; and
as a vehicle for examining special actus reus and mens rea issues arising through the presence of the factor of consent in the law of rape.
Finally, the materials present several inchoate crimes in order to explore the role of harm within the criminal law and to provide a vehicle for studying differentiated mens rea elements for various actus reus elements of a given offense.
The book concludes with a look at accomplice liability and an examination of theories of defense. The defense doctrines present a final opportunity to consider the actus reus and mens rea principles as they relate to the issue of appropriate employment of the punitive sanction.
A Teacher's Manual is available to professors.