7.8 – Actual Answer 2 – Issue Spotter

Actual Answer 2

In determining whether the defendant, Harold Gunton, will be found guilty of the first-degree felony charge of knowingly possessing any quantity of methamphetamine, and of the first-degree misdemeanor charge of possessing more than one ounce of methamphetamine, both common-law doctrine and the model penal code prove to be instructive. Of the first charge, Gunton's lack of culpabilty will be determined via a failure to meet the standards required by the mens rea element of "knowledge," specifically stated in Southlandia code ยง 716. The merits in this particular case prove that this element of "knowledge" has not been sufficiently met. A discussion of "wilful blindness" (as described in common law doctrine), which is a distinct state of mind, and is not a viable substitution for actual "knowledge," when the statue distinctly requires such knowledge, is the basis for Gunton's lack of culpability. Of the latter charge, considering whether Gunton had in his possession more than one ounce of methamphetamine, the matter of fact can be determined with greater ease, the defendant will proven to be guilty of such charge as this element has been sufficiently met.

The legal rule of wilful blindness, which is derived from common law's one strict exception for failing to meet the threshold of actual "knowledge" has been summed up as follows: One who is suspicious of illegal activity but shuts their eyes to such activity, and fails to ensure their suspicion is correct in a deliberate attempt to remain ignorant. In this case, according to common law, such individual can be deemed to have had knowledge and are thus culpable for such illegal crime. Thus, the "high probability" justification, that is, the belief that the mens rea of wilful ignorance is present and the defendant is almost certain of wrongdoing, is what may be used to convict such defendant. However, The Model Penal code restricts the basis for which this strict exception can be said to apply, and considering the merits of Gunton's case offer a better fit for understanding lack of culpability. The Model Penal Code instructs us [[S]ection 2.02(7) of the Model Penal Code; US v. Jewell] that when actual knowledge of possesion of drugs is an element of the offense, the defendant has to be aware of a high probability of his own possession of said drugs, unless he does not believe he does not have possesion at all. This latter rule is what must be applied in this context, not the strict exception rule.

Defendant Gunton testifies that he did not have actual positive knowledge that he possessed illegal drugs (Meth), but that he actually believed he possessed guns. These guns given to him by Jones, who is an illegal arms dealer, could be reasonably deduced to be illegal. Either way, Gunton was not certain, because he did not open the briefcase that he was given. In deciphering Gunton's mens rea, not only is positive knowledge lacking, but so is an awareness of high probability that Gunton possessed these drugs. He thought he possessed guns, and drugs weren't even on his radar of possibilities within that suitcase! Gunton did not believe Jones to be associated with drugs, neither had he seen drugs in the briefcase, and there is no evidence presented that Gunton would have made a reasonable jump to assume he, himself, in his vehicle possessed 12 ounces of methamphetamine. It can be said, according to his testimony, that he does not believe he had in his possession at all any methamphetamine. According to The Model Penal Code, because defendant Gunton did not possess the mens rea of wilful ignorance (at least not for illegal drugs), and because he did not actually know, or believe without a reasonable doubt that he had in his possession any illegal drugs (including meth), he cannot be said to have met the "high probability" justification for culpability for the first-degree felony charge.

In regards to the latter charge, defendant Gunton was the owner and sole driver of the aforementioned truck during the transport of the illegal substance, as he traveled across state for his work responsibilities. In addition, Gunton had in his possession a closed briefcase, which he was given, and agreed to take. While he states that he believed the briefcase to contain guns and not drugs, this is irrelevant to proving the element of possession, for which Gunton clearly had in his vehicle and thus in his possession. It is irrelevant whether he saw the drugs, only that he had them in his care. The action was achieved and that's what matters here in determining his guilt in the misdemeanor "possession" charge, for which he is guilty.

In conclusion, I have shown that Gunton cannot be said to have met either the element of "actual knowledge" required by the statue or what common law substitutes as "wilful ignorance." For in keeping mind The Model Penal Code which restricts such strict exception, we see that defendant Gunton does not meet even the "high probability" justification for culpability in this case. Therefore, I affirm, that Gunton should not be found guilty of the first-degree felony charge. In regards to the first-degree misdmeanor charge, the element of possession has been established with certainty and according to the statue, Gunton should be found guilty.

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Actual Answer 2

Write answers from the perspective of your character in question

Let's take a look at number 2. Here, there are some other things to like, but I think one thing I want to note about this one is I think that the author maybe thinks they really have to sound like a lawyer when writing this. This is actually something we're going to see in a number of the answers. The authors tend to err on the side of using legalese, overly complicated language, and I think it actually doesn't help the readers' understanding.

This first sentence, "In determining whether the defendant, Harold Gunton, will be found guilty of the first-degree felony charge of knowingly possessing any quantity of methamphetamine and the first degree misdemeanor charge of possessing more than one ounce of methamphetamine, both common law doctrine and the Model Penal Code prove to be instructive." It's true that they prove to be instructive, but you've been told that they're relevant. You've been told you need to address them both. That sentence really is a lot of words that doesn't actually move the analysis forward at all.

Think about how much more effective this would have been if the author had said, "Harold Gunton is likely to be found guilty under one statute but not the other, under the common law approach but not the other," or something that really wasn't just throat clearing, but really just got to the point of the matter.

Then similarly, here, I think as you go on, the author runs together the analysis of the two different issues, common law and Model Penal Code, looking at them both and laying out the rules for both before actually applying.

I think it might have been more useful to just simplify, streamline, and just say, "Here's the common law rule. Let me try to apply that." Then a new paragraph, "The Model Penal Code rule is a little different. Let me state it. Let me tell you whether there's a different analysis." Here, we're moving back and forth a little bit between the two, and it's going to be a little bit hard for the grader, someone like me, to figure out exactly which point the author is addressing and making sure that all of the points are there.

Then we get to the next paragraph. Shorter analysis with regard to Section 731, and that's fine. As stated previously, that's supposed to be an easier issue, but we don't split up the Model Penal Code and common law analysis here at all. It's not totally clear reading this if the writer understands the ways in which this is maybe a separate issue.

Then there is a conclusion paragraph I think that is helpful. We see some other language. "Therefore I affirm that Gunton should not be found guilty of the first-degree felony charge. In regards to the first-degree misdemeanor charge, the element of possession has been established, and certainly, according to the statute, Gunton should be found guilty."

That's fine. You're not going to lose points on this, but it would have been even more effective if you had just remembered you're writing this from the perspective of Gunton's lawyer. You would never say, "My client should be found guilty." You might say, "Unfortunately, it's very likely that the defendant will be found guilty," or something like that. That's not something you're going to move a lot of points, but it just is a way you can add a little bit more polish by just keeping in mind, "Who am I writing this as? Who is my character?" when I'm doing a piece of writing like this.

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