“(2) scholarly sources, one of these must be a peer reviewed journal article published in the past 7 years.
1). There is an array of defenses used in criminal cases. All defenses fall under two categories, known as a factual defense or a legal defense. A factual defense involves the facts as to why the defendant did not commit the crime in question, e.g., alibis and other information making doubt possible (Schmalleger & Hall, 2017). A legal defense consists of the defendant making a claim explaining why he/she committed the illicit act (Schmalleger & Hall, 2017). Justifications and excuses are examples of legal defenses (Schmalleger & Hall, 2017).
Moreover, these legal defenses are further classified as an affirmative defense, which occurs when the defendant admits to committing the illicit act and explains why it happened without criminal intent (Schmalleger & Hall, 2017). Besides justification and excuse being a legal, affirmative defense, they differ from one another. In a justification defense, the defendant claims his/her criminal act was vital to stop something horrific from occurring, i.e., self-defense (Schmalleger & Hall, 2017). On the other hand, an excuse involves the defendant asserting that he/she underwent a unique circumstance so great it caused him/her to lack the mental capacity to refrain from committing the crime in question (Schmalleger & Hall, 2017). The gay panic defense is an example of an excuse defense.
Edward Kempf, a psychotherapist, developed the term gay panic in 1920 (Russo, 2019). He asserted his studies revealed heterosexual males become distressed and anxious, causing extreme panic when they have homosexual thoughts (Russo, 2019). Today, this may sound absurd. However, homosexuality has not always been accepted. It was considered a medical ailment until 1973 (Russo, 2019). Using this defense involves the defendant proving the victim’s unwanted sexual advances caused enough turmoil to trigger his/her murderous reaction (Russo, 2019).
The Michigan Court of Appeals case People v. Schmitz (1998) is an example of a case using the gay panic defense. During a taping of the Jenny Jones show, Jonathan Schmitz discovered his secret admirer was a male (People v. Schmitz, 1998). The defendant stated this event caused him a great deal of anguish (People v. Schmitz, 1998). Days later, a sexually explicit letter, authored by the victim, was left on his door (People v. Schmitz, 1998). According to the defendant, the message and talk show taping drove him over the edge; thus, causing him to go to the victim’s home and shoot him (People v. Schmitz, 1998).
Schmitz was initially charged with first-degree murder and using a firearm while committing a felony (People v. Schmitz, 1998). However, he was convicted of the lesser offense of second-degree murder instead (People v. Schmitz, 1998). I find it astonishing that this defense has worked to reduce the convictions of defendants. It is still in existence. In 2018, the gay panic defense decreased a defendant’s conviction from murder to criminally negligent homicide (Russo, 2019).
People v. Schmitz, 586 N.W.2d 766 (Mich. 1998). https://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=9723261901971326157&hl=en&as_sdt=6,43&as_vis=1
Russo, O. T. (2019). How to get away with murder: The “gay panic” defense. Touro Law Review, 35(2), 811–837. https://web-b-ebscohost-com.bethelu.idm.oclc.org/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=9&sid=f1704a0b-75f3-438a-b884-710f0b9f6426%40pdc-v-sessmgr01
Schmalleger, F. & Hall, D. E. (2017). Criminal law today. (6th ed.). Prentice Hall/Pearson. https://betheluniversityonline.net/grad360/default.aspx?SectionID=827&tabid=155#/unit/4/Read
1). People who have committed otherwise criminal acts can claim that they are not liable because they have a justification or excuse. A claim of justification is a claim that a person’s act was warranted, and what that person did was right or was within a legally permissible range of behavior (Greenwalt, 1998). Also, a person may break the speed limit driving a seriously injured person to the hospital. As far as the law is concerned, someone who offers a successful justification has acted appropriately (Berman, 2003, p. 77).
Someone who claims an excuse does not deny that he acted wrongfully. Rather, he urges that special conditions relieve him of the responsibility or blame that most people committing such acts would carry. A claim that someone killed because he was insane is an excuse. Justifications are said to be general, excuses individual (Greenwalt, 1998).
An example of justification would be, if a person broke into our house while you were asleep and you woke up, grabbed your gun, and shot and killed that person, you would be justified. Even though the act was wrong to kill someone, the justification of protecting yourself and your family justifies that act. An example of an excuse in criminal law is usually reckless in nature. The individual thought their life was in danger from an unknown person, that they did not see, but only thought they heard, resulting in the killing of their neighbor after seeing a shadow of something, which later turned out to be a stray animal’s reflection from a nearby street light. This lack of knowledge is a mistake of the law.
The case known as Operation Varsity Blues was conducted when dozens of wealthy parents sought to bypass the traditional way for their children to go to college (Hawkins, 2019, p. 15). These children of Hollywood stars and prominent business people could not on their own, obtain the necessary scores to be accepted to certain top-ranked universities.
One of the main characters a well-known television and movie actress, Felicity Huffman found herself at the forefront of a criminal battle. Huffman, who plead guilty to mail fraud was accused of paying $15,000 to correct her daughter’s SAT scoured so the new score would make her more attractive to top colleges (Geiger, 2019). Huffman pleads guilty in exchange for a lighter sentence. Huffman’s felony sentence was 14 days in jail, one year of supervised probation, and a 30,000 fine. That sounds like a really good exchange. Huffman was given a light sentence because she pleads guilty to avoid a trial, and her defense team presented a similar case of a woman in Ohio that lied to her child’s school about their address so her child could receive a better education in a more prominent area of Akron. The crime was punishable for up to 5 years but the judge chose a lesser sentence of 10 days (Geiger, 2019). In Huffman’s testimony, she admitted she knew what she was doing was wrong. Huffman also admitted that she disguised her bribe as a charitable donation for disadvantaged youth.
The scandal confirms a path that is often taken with little or no consequences. There are many cases that resemble this case such as the 16-year-old teen from California that was drinking and driving with his friends when he struck 4 people walking and killed all four (Victor, 2018). His mother took him to Mexico, to a home they had there to avoid prosecution. The mother and teen were caught and charged. The teen’s defense was every time he got in trouble his wealthy parents would throw money at the problem or work out a compromise.
Operation Varsity Blues may not be unique in the sense of this is common in the world of wealth but the unique and disturbing fact of the matter is the wealthy think this behavior is okay, that its normal way of doing business. I believe the wealth these people have obtained has helped them forget where they came from.
Berman, M. N. (2003). Justification and excuse, law, and morality. University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School. 53(1). p. 1-77. https://scholarship.law.upenn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2476&context=faculty_scholarship
Geiger, D. (2019). Felicity Huffman’s 14-day jail sentence shows just how much privilege plays into criminal sentencing. https://www.insider.com/felicity-huffman-received-a-lighter-sentence-for-a-more-severe-crime-2019-9
Greenwalt, K. (1998). Justifications, excuses, and a model penal code for democratic societies. Criminal Justice Ethics, 17(1), 14. https://www.jstor.org/stable/1373189?seq=1
Hawkins, D. (2019). Operation varsity blues: Where we are now. Journal of College Admission, 244, 15–17. https://web-b-ebscohost-com.bethelu.idm.oclc.org/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=3&sid=ed6a0674-2575-465b-87f0-2bc461c103d4%40sessionmgr103
Victor, D. (2018). Ethan Couch, ‘Affluenza Teen’ who killed 4 while driving drunk, is freed. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/02/us/ethan-couch-affluenza-jail.html