Corpus delicti is simply defined as the body of the crime. However, there are several elements that make up corpus delicti. The two main elements that will be discussed are actus reus (guilty act) and mens rea (guilty mind). These elements must be proven for corpus delicti to be present.
The guilty act or actus reus is the actual crime that has been committed. The concept of culpability or blameworthiness is the key element in actus reus. If a degree of culpability is not met then there can not be a guilty act. It is up to the state to prove actus reus. The state must prove all of the elements of actus reus based upon statute law that already exists.
The first degree of culpability is acting purposely. A crime that is purposely committed would be first degree murder. The act is planned and thought through. The person committing the act has a specific motive for what he is doing. A specific event occurs as a result of the planning and motive of the person committing the act. The principle of expressed malice is present in acting purposely. The malice is expressed through the planning, motive and result of the act.
The second degree of culpability is acting knowingly. Second degree murder is an example of acting knowingly. A person shooting into a crowd and killing someone they did not know or have motive to kill would in most cases be second degree murder. To act knowingly, the person must have the capacity to commit the act. He must also know the result which will occur from the act committed.
The third degree of culpability is acting recklessly. Voluntary manslaughter is an example of acting recklessly. A reckless act lacks malice. The person had no intent to commit the act. If the actions of the accused leading up to the act had been different, then the act may not have happened. For example, if the person has several drinks containing alcohol and hits a small child with his vehicle and kills it, he would be considered to have been acting...
References: Taylor, W (2004) Lectures and course syllabus. CJ 325
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