Avoid Conclusory Statements in Law School Essay Exam Answers

Law school essay examination answers that do not supply the explanatory information detailing step-by-step how each issue can be resolved are said to be “conclusory.” That is, they recite conclusions without stating supportive analysis. Here’s an example of a conclusory statement taken from an exam answer: “Because Adam’s intent manifested the malice required for murder, he will be convicted.” The problem here is that although the statement may be true, the writer has not told the reader (professor) precisely which of Adam’s acts show he had the malice required to prove murder, what degree or variety of intent the law considers sufficient to prove malice, nor what type or variety of malice is required to obtain a murder conviction.

Here’s a better way to handle the Adam/intent issue.

The intent required to obtain a conviction for murder is malice. Malice can be proven by demonstrating that the defendant had the intent to kill. If a defendant uses a deadly weapon in a manner calculated to cause death, he manifests the intent to kill. Here, Adam’s use of a loaded gun to shoot Ben in the forehead at close range proves malice under this “deadly weapon” doctrine.

A display of the thought process leading to every conclusion is essential in a law school essay examination answer. When you enter the professional practice, judges, lawyers, and clients will be asking, “How did you reach that conclusion?” Throughout law school, your professors will expect you to respond to that latent question in every class session and on every examination. The ability to conclude is not what “thinking like a lawyer” is about-rather, you are developing the ability to persuade another that the conclusion you have reached is supportable by application of rules of law to a set of facts.

To score the most points on each issue, the essay ought to specify the issue, indicate which rule (or set of rules) a lawyer would employ to resolve the issue, articulate an analysis of how the facts of this hypothetical case are affected by application of the rule, and reason to a solid conclusion.

Lawyerly analysis, in its most fundamental sense, boils down to an interweaving of the facts presented in the hypothetical, with the law you have identified. Try to weave each fact into the analysis as it is brought up, rather than repeating or summarizing a series of facts and then commenting upon them. The essence of the analysis section of an answer is this: an interweaving of the facts (presented in the question) with the law (the rules, definitions and guiding legal principles used to resolve the legal problem identified by the issue). This interweaving is best accomplished by actually using “law words” and fact words in the same sentence(s) or paragraph.

Here’s an example of interweaving the law and facts in a short paragraph:

“When Jack left to hunt, he manifested his clear intent to breach his obligation to construct the room addition. The ‘half-completed’ status of the job, together with the timing (the completion date now moves from the critical date of March 10 to May 10) and the extra work would support an argument that the extent of performance was closer to minimal than complete. However, Jack would argue that his own costs of $50,000 demonstrate significant performance, supporting his position that the breach was only minor.”

The “fact words” above are obvious (including that Jack went hunting, the job was half-completed, the date change, and so on). The “law words” include: manifested his clear intent, breach his obligation, extent of performance, significant performance, minor breach. It is this interweaving of law and fact that one uses to show how the facts prove the elements necessary to prove (or not) the position for which you are arguing about the issue you’re considering.

Avoid writing conclusory answers or even conclusory sentences. They earn you no points on law school essay exams!

By the Numbers – Does Capital Punishment Deter Murderers?

More than half the countries in the world have the death penalty. Since most countries have tracked homicide rates and solve rates for decades (right from the time of the roaring 30s in most cases), correlating the “death penalty” deterrent to success in curbing capital crimes should be straight forward. Putting aside “wrongfully executed” arguments (in the U.S. 23 people were wrongfully convicted between 1900 and 1995 according to Amnesty International), this investigation looks only at the deterrent value.

Best and Worst Nations For Murder

The U.S. was not among the top ten for “safest countries for murder” according to statistics compiled from Interpol. The best jurisdictions for safety were Slovenia, Austria, Sweden, Canada, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Norway, Ireland, Finland and Singapore-some with capital punishment, most without. The worst jurisdictions mostly did have the death penalty, including: Columbia, El Salvador, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Albania, Venezuela, Russia, Ecuador, Mexico and Panama.

By contrast, Canada had a rate of homicide of 2 per 100,000, and the United States (as of 2005, according to Census data), was 5.5 per 100,000.

Canada Versus the U.S. on Capital Punishment

Canada might be the classic example of a western nation without a death penalty, and some states of the U.S. can serve as the contrast statistic for a quick analysis.

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down capital punishment laws in the U.S. in 1972. Interestingly, criminal homicide rates soared between 1967 and 1977, a time during which there were no executions. In the 1990s, murder rates declined after some states began to reinstate executions.

On the other hand, no province in Canada has the death penalty. Since capital punishment was abolished, the murder rate in the “goody goody” northerner has dropped from 3 to 2 per 100,000, far below the U.S. 2005 rate of 5.5.

In Canada, no executions tends to mean lower homicides. However, in the U.S., the Bureau of Criminal Justice does show a decline in murders with increases in executions. The trend began to reverse in the year 2000, with executions and homicides both down.

Going Abroad With Numbers of Executions

Three countries-China, Iran and Nigeria-lead with the highest executions in the world, accounting for 87% of all reported executions as of 1994. While China has the highest execution rate, it also has the highest conviction rate-almost certainly too high to be reliable-at 99.97% Conviction Rates on the Decline. China and Russia have almost incredible conviction rates, with 99% of cases heard in Russia court resulting in conviction, and 99.97% in China. In the U.S. and Canada, however, the conviction and arrest rates are dropping.

In the United States, overall arrest rates against crimes reported scores approximately 50% average, according to data compiled between 1991 and 2001 by the Bureau of Statistics. The conviction rate for murder is 60% as of 1998 in the U.S.. With murder slightly on the rise, but arrests hovering around 50% and convictions around 60%, numbers of 5.5 murders per 100,000 are don’t seem likely to improve soon. More than 7000 murders go without arrests each year, adding to the stack of cold cases (rounded statistics from Bureau of Statistics review).

In the U.S. Murders on the Increase

With murders on the increase, the rate of unsolved criminal homicides is also on the increase as well at an average of 50%. The latest well-organized statistics, compiled by the U.S. Department of Justice, under The Uniform Crime Reporting Program, show murders on the increase, (although homicides are slightly on the decrease). Murder is defined as “willful non-negligent killing of one human being by another.”

Murders Up 2000 to 2006

With 14,990 murders in 2006, versus 13,230 in 2000, criminal homicides are up, with gangland killings growing the fastest-although still a small relative number at 118 killings in 2006 versus 65 in 2000)-and felony murders still topping the list at 2436 in 2006 versus 2229 in 2000. Contrary to sensational headlines, “romantic” triangle” murders are declining, latest at 103 in 2006, down from 122 in 2000. Narcotics-related murders are up, now at 796 in 2006, up from 580 in 2000.

Murders The Same Per Capita

Probably the coldest but most effective way of reporting on the homicide trends are using the Bureau of Justice Statistics relative numbers, which takes into account a growing population. the rate of murders per 100,000 citizens was 5.5 in 2005. It was 5.5 in 2000 as well. In 2001 it climbed slightly to 5.6, then again to 5.7 in 2003, but stabilized statistically in 2005, the last year reported publicly. On a longer time horizon, prior to 2000, the homicide rate per 100,000 was much higher at 10.2 in 1980, declining gradually to 5.7 in 1999. Hard work of law enforcers and courts must take most of the credit.

575 Law Enforcers Killed

Over-worked law enforcement resources, and courts up against higher standards of evidence, may be part of the reason. This is especially evident in a climate where officers face the threat of homicide themselves. Between 1996 and 2005, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, 575 officers were killed, with 26% killed in “arrest situations”, 18% in “ambush situations”, 18% in “traffic pursuits and stops” and 17% during “disturbance calls.” Most were killed with firearms in the line of duty.

Growing Number of Law Enforcement Officers Per Capita

The increasing murder rate and lower conviction rate is despite a growing number of law enforcement officers per capita. Each law enforcement officer covered 449 citizens, extrapolating from US Census Data (in 2006: 495,270 officers for 22.3 million), down from one officer per 481 in 1990.

Murder Mystery Books That I Have Read and Loved

Since I was a young girl I have been interested in reading murder mystery books. I like to see if I can figure out the plot and find out who the culprit is while reading the story. Sometimes I figure it out and sometimes I don’t but I always enjoy the journey. Some authors are very good at giving clues that could send you in the wrong direction, and that makes the ending a real surprise.

I have read many different authors and have read multiple books of some of these authors and maybe only one of some of the others. I need to be caught up immediately in the story and some authors are very good at doing that for their readers.

My curiosity in the murder mystery book stories has really extended to other parts of my life as well. TV programs that feature law enforcement stories or legal cases seem to be my choice when scanning the TV guide. As an adult when I was first married and raising my children I am sure I watched every episode there was of “Murder She Wrote” as well as all of the “Matlock” wins that took place in the courtroom. I am now much older and still like to watch Matlock at work in the courtroom, if I get the chance. My TV interests these days have turned to Law and Order and CSI programs.

What makes a writer want to write murder mystery books? Maybe the same interest that we have wanting to read about murder and mystery. It makes ones imagination work and takes us out of the real world for awhile. We can lose ourselves for a time in a story well written and just sit and relax. How do they come up with the ideas? How much research do they have to do? Just think of all the hours of work that go into writing a book that I can enjoy and read in a couple of days. Wonderful people, those authors, who can put their thoughts down on paper, form them into a story and entertain thousands of readers around the world.

Everyone has their favorite author or authors and of course I am no different. I tend to read books written by 3 or 4 authors but I am always willing to try new ones that other readers suggest. I do prefer to read books that are not filled with profanity.

Criminal Defense Lawyers: Reducing Murder to Manslaughter

Reducing murder to manslaughter is a task that presents itself in many murder cases. Depending on your state or jurisdiction you may be able to reduce murder to manslaughter by eliminating the element of “malice.” Classically, this is where the defendant acts by being provoked into a sudden quarrel or into a state of mind known as the “heat of passion.” The mental state of “heat of passion” is not just one emotion. It can be anger, jealously, or any other agitated state of mind in the normal range of human behavior.

If a person is intentionally killed but the defendant was provoked or was in the heat of passion due to some provocative circumstance of the alleged victim, the killing is said to be mitigated to voluntary manslaughter. The defendant cannot just set up his or her own standard of conduct. The situation causing the heat of passion must be such that a reasonable person under the circumstances would have been provoked to act out of passion rather than logic. The classic example given in law schools is where a person comes home unexpectedly and finds their spouse in bed with another person. This is the type of act that could cause any reasonable person to act out of passion and emotion rather than logic.

Usually these cases happen in times of great stress and emotion and a psychologist or psychiatrist should be employed to see if any factors of the mental state of the defendant or victim can be used to reduce the offense to manslaughter. How mental state factors can be used depend upon the laws of the jurisdiction in which the case is being tried.

If it can be shown that the killing was unintentional, but reckless, in some states the case can be reduced to involuntary manslaughter. Involuntary manslaughter carries a significantly lower penalty than voluntary manslaughter. Sometimes what looks like a murder, an intentional killing, is really an accident under extremely stressful circumstances. Note that in some states an unintentional killing, if extreme enough, can be murder. Generally that type of act must be more than recklessness. Typically, to make an unintentional act murder there must exist a callous disregard for human life. In some states those types of acts are called “depraved heart murders.”

As an example, a female was charged with murder when she stabbed her husband in the chest with a steak knife. They were in the kitchen making dinner and got into an argument. Because the knife hit a major artery near the heart, he died within minutes. The defendant told two different stories about what happened. She said it was an accident and she didn’t mean to kill him. She was prosecuted for murder and taken to trial.

The defense noticed that the location and angle of the wound seemed odd for an intentional stabbing. The blade went in at an angle rather than vertical. This didn’t seem consistent with how a person intentionally stabbing another would have stabbed. Also, the blade went right between the ribs in a soft area of cartilage. It seemed unlikely that a non professional could have known this vulnerability and hit it so precisely.

The defense retained a well-known pathologist who totally agreed and testified that all of the circumstances were consistent with an accident and inconsistent with patterns of known stabbings. A psychiatrist also testified to the woman’s exaggerated startle response because of beatings from a prior relationship. The defense theory was that she accidentally stabbed her boyfriend when he quickly advanced towards her in the argument. She over-reacted and, without consciously knowing it, thrust her knife hand forward. The knife went through the butter-soft cartilage and pierced the artery. The jury found her not guilty of murder and found her guilty of involuntary manslaughter. Had she not been under the influence of drugs, the jury might have found the act to be a pure accident and totally excused her.

To show that a killing is either voluntary manslaughter or involuntary manslaughter, a thorough investigation, analysis, and reconstruction is mandated. Even if the act was not the type that would justify reducing a murder to manslaughter, the fact that the defendant was in the heat of passion could eliminate premeditation and deliberation and reduce the degree of the murder.

Types of Murder and Homicide

Homicide in Florida

Murder is generally defined as the unlawful killing of a human being. This general definition is applied differently from state to state. In the state of Florida there are many situations resulting in death that can be deemed as murder or homicide. In Florida, homicide is an act resulting in the death of a human being. Homicide can be criminal or non-criminal. Murder is a more serious charge of homicide that comes with increased penalties.

Types of Homicide in Florida

The following are situations that can be deemed as homicide within the state of Florida.

· Justifiable use of deadly force

· Assisting self-murder

· Commercial exploitation of self-murder

· Manslaughter

· Vehicular homicide

· Vessel homicide

· Unnecessary killing to prevent criminal act

· Killing of an unborn child by injury to its mother

· Excusable homicide

· Murder

· Attempted felony murder

Murder in Florida

Murder can be punished more harshly than the homicide charges outlined above, and it usually has a more serious connotation. The following are examples of murder charges in the state of Florida.

· Murder occurs when the premeditated or malicious intent to kill another person is acted out and results in the death of the intended person(s) or another human being.

· When murder is committed in the completion or attempt of the following crimes:

– Arson

– Sexual battery

– Robbery

– Burglary

– Aggravated child abuse

– Aircraft piracy

– Kidnapping

– Aggravated stalking

– Carjacking

– Resisting an officer with violence

– Terrorism

· When a drug or substance, such as opium, heroin, cocaine, or any natural or synthetic salt, is distributed with the knowledge that consumption of said drug will kill the user. Or, when the substance is prepared by a person over the age of 18 for use, with knowledge that use will result in the user’s death.

With any of these instances, if the crime is attempted by not completed a charge of attempted murder, attempted homicide or attempted manslaughter can be given.

For More Information

The charge of homicide is a serious accusation. Murder and homicide are some of the most severe felonies that can be committed within our legal system. With such a serious crime it is important to know the many components and variants that fall within the general term of homicide. For more information on homicide and criminal law, please visit the website of the Boca Raton criminal lawyers of Eric N. Klein & Associates, P.A. today.