When They Cross the Line
Attorney’s Office in New York. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan. Criminal law separates between actus reus and mens rea, Latin terms meaning guilty act and guilty mind, allowing some leeway in guilty thoughts meaning that almost all defendants argue they were simply pretending.
“Suppose you’re at a target range and you don’t realize someone is behind the target, you pul free run 2 l the trigger and someone accidentally gets killed. In that case, you’re not guilty,” Asner said. “It was an accident. On the other hand, if you are shooting at something thinking it is a person, and you intend to kill a person, but in fact the person is not there and no one gets killed, there is no completed crime but we call that attempt and attempt is a crime.”
In reality, though, it’s blurry, he said. One key question that often helps define cases is whether the defendant took a substantial step toward the crime. vs. Joseph Zito. Zito often got online to look for young girls, and eventually, he starte free run 2 d chatting with an FBI agent he believed to be a young girl.
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“The government figures out who he is but doesn’t arrest him until he gets in the car and shows up to meet the girl with sex paraphernalia in the trunk of his car,” Asner said. “We were very careful to make sure the guy did ta free run 2 ke a substantial step.”
One of the arguments against Valle is the specificity he used in his communication.
“This is someone who hasn’t just idly talked about cannibalism, but he’s named specific people,” DeMarco said.
Further complicating the “I was just pretending” defense is the Internet.
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“The Internet allows people who have these niche interests to find each other in ways that are efficient, global, and, if you want, anonymous,” DeMarco said. “It enables people with disparate interests whether it be stamp collecting or cannibalism to find each other. And that can validate their interest, free run 2 so they don’t feel alone or odd or unusual.”
That validation can lead to encouragement, DeMarco said, so that someone who was initially only mildly interested in stamp collecting, for example, could form a club. And when the subject is something society disapproves of, it can encourage someone to cross certain lines they might not have otherwise.
“The very probing question is, What is the difference between fantasy and what’s blameworthy?” Asner said. “At bottom, it’s a moral judgment. Oftentimes, that is for the jury to figure out.”