Criminal Law Project Assignment Essay
|Topic||Criminal Law Project Assignment Essay|
STATE v. LEE
Janice Lee, 42, and her husband, Chester Lee, 45, live on a farm about thirteen miles from Washburn, North Dakota, near the Missouri River. The couple, who have been married for twenty-three years, have five adult children. The youngest two children, Sandra and Neil, are ages twenty and twenty-one. Sandra still lives at home, as does Neil, who sleeps in an old converted bus parked on the property. The older three children are married and live on their own in Washburn. The Lees support themselves with proceeds from the farm and from money Chester earns when he takes an occasional construction job at area power plants.
The Lees’ marriage is a bleak affair dominated by alcohol abuse by both Janice and Chester, and by physical abuse by Chester upon Janice. At times, his beatings leave her black and blue for three or four days. When the pain is too much to bear by herself, she goes to her daughters’ homes in the morning and has them rub her badly bruised back. During one of the beatings, Chester sits on top of her and strangles her, stopping only as she begins to lose consciousness. The beatings are regularly followed by apologies and Chester’s promises never to hit her again. To hide the bruises, Janice often wears long-sleeved dresses. She seeks medical treatment only for the worst beatings.
Many people try to help Janice leave Chester, even if for a brief respite. One daughter gives Janice money to visit her brother in Chicago, which she does, but then she returns. Another time, Janice appeals to Chester’s brother Lloyd, who talks to Chester about the violence. Janice tries to convince Chester to go with her to a marriage counselor. She also calls the Sheriff’s office several times about getting into a shelter. More than once, Janice tries to kill herself. On one occasion she stabs herself with a kitchen knife. When Janice’s children try to step in to stop the beatings, Chester warns them against interfering in the marriage.
On the night of August 6, 1981, Janice spends the day at home while Chester drives to the nearby town of Underwood to pick up some parts for the combine. He is still angry from a previous argument over his suspicions that Janice is having an affair. Later in the day, the two leave for a gun club picnic at a park in Washburn. Chester gives Janice the silent treatment on the way to the picnic, which he does frequently when he is upset.
Janice and Chester drink heavily at the picnic and both become drunk. They begin to argue, this time about the new friends Janice has begun seeing, a young couple from Dunseith, a small North Dakota town near the Canadian border about 120 miles away. Chester is also upset because he thinks his wife is paying too much attention to a man at the picnic. As the picnic winds down, Janice says she wants to stay in town with her daughter Laurie, but Chester insists that she come home. Afraid of being alone with Chester, Janice convinces her daughter Sandra, who has joined them at the picnic, to come home with them rather than stay with her sister Laurie as she planned.
Chester and Janice fight constantly on the trip home. Chester accuses her of spending too much time with the man at the party. Janice reminds him of an affair he had with another woman. She says she wants to return to Washburn to spend the night at Laurie’s home. Chester again refuses, but this time in his anger, he reaches across to the passenger side door, opens it, and with the truck moving at 45 miles an hour, tries to push Janice out. Sandra, who is sitting between the two, pulls her mother back in and closes the door. Sometime later, Janice says she wants to get out and tries to open the door while the truck is moving. Sandra pulls her back in. Chester tells Janice to leave in the morning if she wants to.
When they arrive home after midnight, they discover a problem with the water system. Sandra checks around the house to find the problem. Fearing her parents may try to drive while intoxicated, Sandra checks the family cars for keys and remove the ones she finds. The argument between Chester and Janice continues. Janice goes into the house and tries to call a deputy sheriff she knows for help, but Chester pushes her to the floor. Each time she tries to stand and get to the phone, he pushes her back to the floor. Chester is now shouting and Janice is crying.
Janice walks out of the house to get away from Chester, but Chester, who is bigger, catches up with her and throws the 5’1”, 150- pound Janice to the ground. During the fight, Chester takes away her wedding rings and tells her she is a drunk and does not deserve to be married anymore. Chester begins to tire and insists they go into the house and go to sleep. When Janice refuses to go with him, he picks her up and drags her inside.
In the living room, the argument continues. They argue about their drinking. They talk about divorce. There is a discussion about her moving to Minot the following week to live with her daughter Wanda. Eventually, Chester goes to bed, while Janice remains in the living room. Later, Chester comes into the living room and tells her to go to bed. She does not. Chester comes back into the living room, picks her up, and drags her across the floor into the bedroom, and throws her onto the bed. She eventually removes her clothes, puts on her nightgown, and lies in bed next to him.
Sometime before 1:00 a.m., Chester falls asleep. Janice, lying beside him, is sill awake. She slips out of bed, goes to kiss Sandra goodnight, and then heads for the kitchen. Although Sandra has tried to hide all the knives out of fear that her mother might try again to hurt herself, Janice finds a butcher knife and walks back into the bedroom, careful not to wake Chester. As he sleeps, Janice stabs Chester twice in the right side of his chest. Chester struggles out of bed and crawls to the living room. He calls Sandra, and when she comes to the top of the stairs, Chester screams, “Get Neil. Mom stabbed me.” Sandra rushes to him and helps him sit on the couch, and then rushes to get her brother, who is sleeping in the old bus parked on the property.
Janice calls her brother-in -law Roy, and tells him, “Roy, I just killed Chester.” Janice tells him to call an ambulance, which he does. It is now 1:15 a.m. and her next call is to the deputy sheriff she knows. She tries to tell him that she killed her husband, but she is nearly hysterical and her words come out in unintelligible sobs. Finally, she manages to tell him just to come to the farm but for what he does not know. Janice calls information to get the sheriff’s number. She calls him and manages to tell him she killed her husband.
Paramedics pronounce Chester dead when they arrive. Janice tells a paramedic, “I couldn’t take it anymore.”
As she waits for deputies to arrive, Janice washes up and changes her clothes. Deputies arrest Janice at 3:30 a.m. and arrest her.
Janice is charged with Murder under 12.1-16-01 of the North Dakota
In North Dakota, murder is defined as follows:
In any prosecution under this subsection in which the defendant was not the only participant in the underlying crime, it is an affirmative defense that the defendant: (1) Did not commit the homicidal act or in any way solicit, command, induce, procure, counsel, or aid the commission thereof; (2) Was not armed with a firearm, destructive device, dangerous weapon, or other weapon which under the circumstances indicated a readiness to inflict serious bodily injury; (3) Reasonably believed that no other participant was armed with such a weapon; and (4) Reasonably believed that no other participant intended to engage in conduct likely to result in death or serious bodily injury. Subdivisions a and b are inapplicable in the circumstances covered by subsection 2.
Draft an opening statement for the trial of Janice Lee. You will be assigned either the prosecutor’s opening statement or the defense attorney’s opening statement.
Students with last names that start with A-K will present the prosecutor’s opening statement.
Students with last names that start with K-Z will present the defense attorney’s opening statement.
An opening statement is made by the attorney for each party at the beginning of a trial before any evidence is introduced. The opening statement outlines the party’s legal position and gives the jury a preview of the evidence that will be introduced later. The purpose of opening statement is to tell jurors something about the case they will be hearing. The opening statement must be confined to facts that will be proved by the evidence, and cannot be argumentative.
An opening statement should always include the following:
Be sure to discuss the law in your story. Talk about how the facts either support a conviction or a not guilty verdict. Talk about Janice Lee’s state of mind and any defenses.
Your opening statement must be a minimum of 2 full pages in length, double spaced, with 12 point font. It must be uploaded to Canvas as a Word or PDF document.
The opening statement is worth 100 points and is due on Friday, March 20, 2020 by 11:59 p.m.