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Criminal Law Keyed to Johnson
People v. Davis
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*Case Brief Anatomy includes: Brief Prologue, Complete Case Brief, Brief Epilogue
- The Brief Prologue provides necessary case brief introductory information and includes:
- Topic: Identifies the topic of law and where this case fits within your course outline.
- Parties: Identifies the cast of characters involved in the case.
- Procedural Posture & History: Shares the case history with how lower courts have ruled on the matter.
- Case Key Terms, Acts, Doctrines, etc.: A case specific Legal Term Dictionary.
- Case Doctrines, Acts, Statutes, Amendments and Treatises: Identifies and Defines Legal Authority used in this case.
- The Case Brief is the complete case summarized and authored in the traditional Law School I.R.A.C. format. The Pro case brief includes:
- Brief Facts: A Synopsis of the Facts of the case.
- Rule of Law: Identifies the Legal Principle the Court used in deciding the case.
- Facts: What are the factual circumstances that gave rise to the civil or criminal case? What is the relationship of the Parties that are involved in the case. Review the Facts of this case here:
Maria Flores, who was between 23 and 25 weeks pregnant, went into a store to cash a check. As Flores exited, Davis (Defendant) attempted to rob her at gunpoint. When she refused to give him money, Defendant shot her in the chest. Flores received life-saving surgery; however, her fetus was stillborn the next day as a direct result of Flores’s blood loss. Defendant was charged with assault, robbery, and murdering Flores’s fetus, pursuant to the state’s penal code § 187(a), which provides that “[m]urder is the unlawful killing of a human being, or a fetus, with malice aforethought.” The statute exempts abortion from its reach. Although § 187(a) does not expressly require a fetus to be viable before the provisions can be applied, the trial court instructed the jury that it must find fetal viability before it can convict for murder. The trial court instructed the jury, based on previous court of appeal decisions, that a fetus is viable when it is possible for it to survive the trauma of birth, although with artificial medical aid. Defendant was convicted of murder of a fetus and appealed, arguing that the trial court gave an incorrect viability instruction. The defendant cited United States Supreme Court decisions in the abortion cases to say that § 187(a) cannot apply to a fetus, unless it meets the definition of viability set forth inRoe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973): “the point in fetal development when a fetus, if born, would be capable of living normally outside the womb.” The court of appeal ruled against Defendant, finding that fetal viability is not a required element of murder under the statute, contrary to prior decisions. However, the court reversed the murder conviction, because applying this new interpretation of § 187(a) to Defendant would violate both the Due Process and Ex Post Facto Clauses of the Constitution.
- Issue(s): Lists the Questions of Law that are raised by the Facts of the case.
- Holding: Shares the Court's answer to the legal questions raised in the issue.
- Concurring / Dissenting Opinions: Includes valuable concurring or dissenting opinions and their key points.
- Reasoning and Analysis: Identifies the chain of argument(s) which led the judges to rule as they did.
- The Brief Prologue closes the case brief with important forward-looking discussion and includes:
- Policy: Identifies the Policy if any that has been established by the case.
- Court Direction: Shares where the Court went from here for this case.