Basic Concepts of Criminal Law

By George P. Fletcher | Go to book overview
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5
The Crime versus the Offender
When defense lawyer Clarence Darrow was defending two young men accused of a brutal and senseless murder, he appealed to the jury to direct their condemnation to the crime instead of the accused criminals. They should hate the evil done, he said, but not those who did it. Judging crime, he argued, did not preclude compassion for those charged as offenders. With his plea for understanding, he managed to rescue the two defendants, Nathan Loeb and Richard Leopold, from a threatened death sentence. 1The distinction between the crime and the offender recurs in both scholarly as well as rhetorical reflections on the criminal law. The precondition for this general distinction is the analysis of the global phenomenon of crime into distinct issues. Once the crime is broken down in this way, we can contemplate grouping the distinct issues into those relevant to the offense in the abstract and those relevant to the offender as a concrete person. The analysis of crime into distinct issues is part of the daily practice of criminal justice. Let us consider, then, the array of distinct issues that can arise in a homicide trial. As to the following, we should inquire whether each question bears on the crime or on the offender:
1. Was the alleged offender a juvenile or an adult at the time of commission?

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