Daily Archives: February 14, 2007

Julie Amero’s case gaining national attention

Update: In light of the comments, here is the relevant excerpt of the Model Jury Instruction for 53-21:

To find the defendant guilty of wilfully or unlawfully causing  or permitting any child under sixteen years to be placed in such  a situation that the life or limb of such child is endangered, the  health of such child is likely to be injured or the morals of such  child are likely to be impaired, the state must prove the following  elements beyond a reasonable doubt: (1) that at the time of the  incident, the alleged victim was under the age of sixteen years;  and (2) that the defendant wilfully or unlawfully caused or permitted  the victim to be placed in a situation that endangered the  child’s life or limb, or was likely to injure his health or impair  his morals.

The conduct to be punished must involve a child under the  age of sixteen years. The statute also requires wilfulness or  unlawfulness in causing or permitting the child to be placed in  a situation that his life or limb is endangered, or his health is  likely to be injured, or his morals are likely to be impaired. This  is the conduct of a person that is deliberately indifferent to,  acquiesces in, or creates a situation inimical to the child’s moral  or physical welfare.

”Wilfully” means intentionally or deliberately. ”Unlawfully”  means without legal right or justification. Causing or permitting  a situation to arise within the meaning of this statute requires  conduct on the part of the defendant that brings about or permits  that situation to arise when the defendant had such control or  right of control over the child that the defendant might have  reasonably prevented it.

Also factoring into the equation are the exact terms of the jury instruction given by the judge in Amero’s case.

Several national news organizations are carrying stories today about the case of Julie Amero [previous commentary here]. Here is a video of an MSNBC news report on this case with their version of Nancy Grace: Susan Filan.

There is even a blog supporting Amero’s cause. Her sentencing is scheduled for March 2nd, but as can be seen from the blog, they’re already discussing appeals.

What interested me is a comment on this website where a poster mentions an article that stated the Risk of Injury statute doesn’t require mens rea. Let’s look at the statute:

Sec. 53-21. Injury or risk of injury to, or impairing morals of, children. Sale  of children.(a) Any person who (1) wilfully or unlawfully causes or permits any child  under the age of sixteen years to be placed in such a situation that the life or limb of  such child is endangered, the health of such child is likely to be injured or the morals  of such child are likely to be impaired, or does any act likely to impair the health or  morals of any such child, or (2) has contact with the intimate parts, as defined in section  53a-65, of a child under the age of sixteen years or subjects a child under sixteen years  of age to contact with the intimate parts of such person, in a sexual and indecent manner  likely to impair the health or morals of such child, or (3) permanently transfers the legal  or physical custody of a child under the age of sixteen years to another person for money  or other valuable consideration or acquires or receives the legal or physical custody of  a child under the age of sixteen years from another person upon payment of money or  other valuable consideration to such other person or a third person, except in connection  with an adoption proceeding that complies with the provisions of chapter 803, shall be  guilty of a class C felony for a violation of subdivision (1) or (3) of this subsection and  a class B felony for a violation of subdivision (2) of this subsection.

As you can see, it is under subsection (1) that she has to be convicted. Now, the question is, does this statute require intent? Obviously. The real question is whether it is a specific intent crime or a general intent crime. A quick search on Lexis brings up State v. Sorabella, 277 Conn. 155. The pertinent quote from that decision:

As this court previously has observed, that offense is a general intent crime. E.g., State v. McClary, 207 Conn. 233, 240, 541 A.2d 96 (1988)State v. Reid, 85 Conn. App. 802, 809-10, 858 A.2d 892, cert. denied, 272 Conn. 908, 863 A.2d 702 (2004). Thus, "it is not necessary, to support a conviction under § 53-21, that the [accused] be aware that his conduct is likely to impact a child younger than the age of sixteen years. Specific intent is not a necessary requirement of the statute. Rather, the intent to do some act coupled with a reckless disregard of the consequences . . . of that act is sufficient to [establish] a violation of the statute." (Citation omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Davila, 75 Conn. App. 432, 438, 816 A.2d 673, cert. denied, 264 Conn. 909, 826 A.2d 180 (2003), cert. denied, 543 U.S. 897, 125 S. Ct. 92, 160 L. Ed. 2d 166 (2004). For the same reasons that we have rejected the defendant’s contention that sexual assault in the second degree, which also is a general intent crime, cannot be the subject of an attempt; see part I A of this opinion; we also reject the defendant’s assertion that risk of injury to a child in violation of § 53-21 (1) cannot be the subject of an attempt.

So it is not a specific intent crime; this does not mean that it is a per se crime. There still needs to be mens rea. The mens rea, however, is that there is a disregard for the outcome of the action. Do her acts fulfill this requirement? Based on the facts, I think not. The appellate court will have to decide.