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AU Actus Reus and Mens Rea in Criminal Law Discussion Responses

AU Actus Reus and Mens Rea in Criminal Law Discussion Responses


respond to your classmates’ postings, always ask the questions, “why is it done this way,” and “how could this process be improved.” Specific to these discussions, is asking potential jurors questions about their beliefs the best way to find an impartial jury to determine guilt or innocence in a criminal case?

1.Anna Bryant

As stated by Cornell Law School (2022), “actus reus refers to the act or omission that compromise the physical elements of a crime as required by statue; this includes only a voluntary affirmative act, or omission (failure to act), causing a criminally proscribed result” (para. 1). An involuntary act does not fall under the actus reus; for example if a defendant acted in reflex or protecting themselves or their family, the defendant’s contact then does not satisfy the requirement needed to meet actus reus (Cornell Law School, 2022, para. 4). The term mens rea is latin for guilty mind, and refers to criminal intent; this term is important in regards to the state of mind required to convict a defendant of a particular crime (Cornell Law School, n.d., para. 1). This term bases a requirement of possessing a guilty mind and being aware of his or her misconduct; but the defendant does not need to know or have knowledge that their conduct is illegal to be guilty of a crime (Cornell Law School, n.d., para. 2).

Mens Rea Standards for criminal conviction:

*acting purposely – the defendant had an underlying conscious object to act

*acting knowingly – the defendant is practically certain that the conduct will cause a particular result

*acting recklessly – the defendant consciously disregarded a substantial and unjustified risk

*acting negligently – the defendant was not aware of the risk, but should have been aware of the risk

(Cornell Law School, n.d., para. 6).

Actus reus Standards for criminal conviction:

*a statute requires a person to act in a certain way

*a contract requires a person to act in a certain way

*some special status relationships exists that creates a duty to act in a certain way (example: parental responsibilities)

*a voluntary assumption of care creates a duty to act in a certain way

*the individuals created risk (Cornell Law School, 2022, para. 6).

Of the two legal requirements listed, the hardest one to prove would be that of mens rea, this is due to the fact that mens rea is all about what is going on in the mind of the individual, which only that person will know without a shadow of a doubt. This is why psychiatrist and psychologists are brought in during these types of cases, to try to dig into these individuals minds to prove to the court what their mindset was during the crime beyond reasonable doubt.   

2. Steve Oshields

Distinguishing Actus Reus and Mens Rea:

Actus Reus: This term refers to the physical element of a crime, often described as the “guilty act.” It encompasses the actions, conduct, or behavior that constitute the prohibited activity. Actus reus involves observable actions or omissions that breach the law, such as theft, assault, or driving under the influence.

Mens Rea: Mens rea, on the other hand, refers to the mental element of a crime, often called the “guilty mind.” It pertains to the defendant’s state of mind or intent at the time they committed the actus reus. Mens rea involves understanding the consequences of one’s actions, having a particular intention (such as knowingly or recklessly), or displaying a certain level of negligence.

Significance in Criminal Law:

Both actus reus and mens rea are essential components in criminal law and must generally be established together to prove a crime has occurred:

Actus reus helps ensure that individuals are held accountable for their actions and not for mere thoughts or intentions.

Mens rea ensures that criminal liability is assigned to individuals who not only committed a prohibited act but also had the requisite level of intent or culpability, emphasizing the moral and culpable aspect of criminal behavior.

Standard of Proof for Defendant’s Mens Rea:

In most criminal systems, the defendant’s mens rea must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. However, it’s important to note that the state doesn’t necessarily need to prove “what the defendant was thinking at the time of the crime” in order to prove mens rea. Instead, the legal standard focuses on proving the specific mental state associated with the crime, which can vary depending on the offense (e.g., intention, recklessness, negligence). Proving the defendant’s actual thoughts can be challenging, so the focus is on demonstrating their mental culpability based on their behavior, actions, and surrounding circumstances.

Standard of Proof for Each Element of Actus Reus:

Each element of the actus reus must also be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. This includes proving the physical actions or omissions that constitute the crime. The standard of proof is the same as for mens rea, as it is essential to ensure that all elements of the offense are established convincingly before a defendant can be found guilty.

Difficulty of Proof: Actus Reus vs. Mens Rea:

The difficulty of proving actus reus versus mens rea can vary depending on the nature of the crime and the available evidence. However, in many cases, mens rea can be more challenging to establish beyond a reasonable doubt. This is because proving someone’s state of mind often relies on indirect evidence, such as their behavior, statements, or the circumstances surrounding the offense. Thoughts and intentions are internal mental states that are not directly observable, making it more complex to conclusively demonstrate what the defendant was thinking at the time of the crime. Actus reus, being based on observable actions, can sometimes be more straightforward to establish through tangible evidence.

3. Alex Hernandezvargas

Hello class,

Below you will find a narrative of the prompted video.

Explain the legal term voir dire, its origins, and its purposes.

Voir Dier is the perspective of the juror’s ability or willingness to apply the presumption of innocence and hold the government to its burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt is not granted uniformly across jurisdictions (Johnson, V. B. 2015). Some history on Voir Dier is that it dates from the early years of our nation. The Supreme Court concluded that Voir Dier I was the basis of our Law and a Constitutional requirement under Due process. This leads to the purpose of Voir Dier; wish is the process used to select a fair and impartial jury during a case. This occurs during the jury selection process when both parties meaning defense and prosecution lawyers, ask questions during the jury selection process.

Detail the process of voir dire, and distinguish between peremptory and discretionary strikes of potential jury members.

The first step is to find fair jurors but, at the same time, find jurors that will work for you and find jurors that will work against you. Both parties’ layers do this. This is done by determining if the possible juror is biased or has a precursor towards the case by identifying individuals with race issues or any issues that affect the pure judgment of the case.

If any biases are found, the jury selection attorney will move to Peremotory Challenges, meaning that they can dismiss the individuals from the courtroom or the jury selection based on the possible bias. Once the bought parties have exhausted their peremptory challenges, they will move to the Challenge of Couse wish is the evaluation or recommendation of a psychologist or another attorney taking notes (EmorySchoolofLaw. 2010, February 5).  This note allows the prosecution or defense attorneys to identify if the possible juror can provide a fair judgment during the trial. This is the most challenging part of a jury selection because it is based on responses from the juror to identify whether by hunch or perception of the individual actions.

Provide an opinion of whether or not the process of voir dire serves its stated ends.

The process of Voir Dier serves its stated end. This is because the current system uses a selection of individuals from different ways of life and situations with no previous knowledge from any of the legal parties. This is different from the past generation jury selection as the lawyers knew their community, they understood the possible jurors’ ways of life and possible life perspectives, being able to quickly identify their biases and perspective towards a defense or prosecution case. The limited time that the legal parties have to complete a jury selection makes the current Voir Dier process accurate and fair.

Create improvements in the current system of voir dire to ensure fair and impartial jurors for criminal trials.

An improvement area for the Voir Dier system is to allow ample time for both legal parties to examine, to the best of their abilities, the possible jurors, and also to allow a community or pass history evaluation of the individuals to understand better if there will be any biases during the case. This can be done by evaluating the individual’s background check and any history of insolvent with the law as speeding tickets. The current Voir Dier system is based on a question-and-answer evaluation of an individual. However, more is needed to guarantee that the individual is truthful with his or her answers.

Explain whether or not a defendant is entitled to a “fair” or a perfect jury.

A defendant is entitled to a fair jury meaning that all jurors selected reflect not having any state in the outcome of the case and have no biases against the defendant. (Cornell Law School. n.d.). There is not perfect jury selection as the defense and prosecution parties will select the individual that best feeds their need weather for defense or prosecution of the defendant.

Distinguish between peremptory strikes of jurors vs. strikes for cause of potential jurors.

A peremptory strike can be done at any time and excuse the possible juror if they have any biases or discrimination towards the defendant, whether by race, religion, or any situation that will not allow an unbiased decision (Discrimination in Jury Selection. n.d) A Strike is when the juror comments on the sentencing. Such a sentence is imposed, then that will such a decision unfit or gives the legal team and even the judge the determination that the juror’s decision was made by biases rather than by examination of the evidence.

4. Luis Murillo

The jury selection process is referred to as voir dire, which means to speak the truth (Emory School of Law, 2010). The purpose of voir dire is to identify members who are unfit to serve as jurors during the trial (Johnson, 2015). During the voir dire process, the entire jury panel is placed under oath and asked a series of questions to help identify bias, prejudice, or experiences that could hinder a fair trial (Emory School of Law, 2010). The responses during voir dire process inform decisions to dismiss certain members from the panel with peremptory strikes. Peremptory challenges excuse jurors based on feelings you get and do not require reason or justification (Emory School of Law, 2010). These strikes are limited in number with each side allotted an equal amount (Emory School of Law, 2010). Peremptory challenge resides as a significant right secured for the accused (Johnson, 2015).  Challenges for cause occur when jurors admit they have bias and would not deliver a fair ruling (Emory School of Law, 2010). Strikes for cause are important and without direct questioning, members would not likely be identified (Emory School of Law, 2010).  

Overall, voir dire resides as a valuable tool that serves its stated ends. The presence of voir dire safeguards the right to a jury comprised of neutral, unbiased, members who are willing to apply the law to achieve a fair trial. Obtaining the perfect jury would encompass a plethora of time and resources but defendants are entitled to a fair jury. Jury selection is utilized to select fair jurors and dismiss those with predisposed conceptions (Emory School of Law, 2010). The questioning process during voir dire aims to identify jurors who are unable or unwilling to presume innocence and the standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt (Johnson, 2015). All processes have areas that can be improved on. Some scholars argue that the effectiveness of voir dire relies on the specific manner in which it is implemented (Johnson, 2015). Research suggests that jurors are more comfortable in a voir dire setting with a lawyer compared to a judge (Johnson, 2015). To enhance voir dire efforts good eye contact should be made with people at a pace that is open, friendly, and conversational (Emory School of Law, 2010). It is essential to stimulate conversations with the group as a whole and engage members through open-ended questions (Emory School of Law, 2010). Areas to avoid would involve casting moral judgment and singling out or focusing on one person which could cause other members to feel excluded, left out, or bored (Emory School of Law, 2010). Establishing a conversation that conveys the significance of fairness is important. Providing examples like if you just went through a divorce perhaps this is not the right time to sit on a divorce case or if you just lost a loved one then you may have strong feelings in a wrongful death case (Emory School of Law, 2010). Descriptions and examples in generic cases is a way to shed light on predispositions (Emory School of Law, 2010). Different techniques, group interviews, leading questions, and follow-up questions are used to improve voir dire or jury selection. Thank you for listening to my explanation.  

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