Criminal Law Defense
"This seminar explores the moral underpinnings of, and various controversies regarding, criminal law defenses. During the first portion of the semester, through assigned reading materials (articles, excerpts from treatises, but no cases), the focus is on the nature of criminal law defenses generally and, more specifically, the theoretical but all-important concepts of ""justification"" and ""excuse"". There will also be readings on various specific and controversial defense topics, perhaps including: whether battered women who kill their sleeping abusers should be entitled to claim self-defense; and the provocation defense to murder. Each student is required to write a substantial research paper on some aspect of criminal law defenses. Students will select a paper topic from a long list of research topics provided at the first class session. The topics relate to proposed new defenses (e.g., euthanasia; cultural defense, ""rotten social background"" defense); existing defenses; and more general concepts of justification and excuse. During the second half of the semester, students will report to the class on their chosen topic."