1st Edition

American Criminal Law Its People, Principles, and Evolution

By Paul H. Robinson, Sarah M. Robinson Copyright 2022
    442 Pages 128 Color Illustrations
    by Routledge

    442 Pages 128 Color Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This coursebook offers an exciting new approach to teaching criminal law to graduate and undergraduate students, and indeed to the general public. Each well-organized and student-friendly chapter offers historical context, tells the story of a principal historic case, provides a modern case that contrasts with the historic, explains the legal issue at the heart of both cases, includes a unique mapping feature describing the range of positions on the issue among the states today, examines a key policy question on the topic, and provides an aftermath that reports the final chapter to the historic and modern case stories.

    By embedding sophisticated legal doctrine and analysis in real-world storytelling, the book provides a uniquely effective approach to teaching American criminal law in programs on criminal justice, political science, public policy, history, philosophy, and a range of other fields. 

    Part I. Liability Principles

    1 Legality: Hitler’s Warmaking
    Adolf Hitler – 1939
    The Legality Principle
    Ray Brent Marsh – 1997
    Legality in the States
    The Strengths and Weaknesses of a Commitment to the Legality Principle

    2 Punishment Theory: The Prince of Pickpockets
    The Prince of Pickpockets – 1906
    Punishment Theory and Alternative Distributive Principles
    William James Rummel – 1973
    Habitual Offender Treatment in the States
    Can the Natural Tension between Fighting Crime and Doing Justice Be Minimized?
    Appendix: Model Penal Code "Purposes" Section Amendment

    3 Culpability: Homer Simpson’s Felony Murder
    Homer Simpson – 1929
    Culpability Requirements
    The Felony-Murder Rule
    Moors Child Murderers – 1964
    Felony-Murder Liability in the States
    Does the Disproportionality of Punishment to Blameworthiness under the Felony-Murder Rule Help or Hurt the Criminal Law’s Goals?

    4 Homicide Provocation: A Webster Murder at Harvard
    Dr. John Webster – 1849
    Dan White – 1978
    Murder Mitigation in the States
    Should Provocation or Extreme Emotional Disturbance Be Dealt with Simply as a Sentencing Factor?

    5 Causation: The Grand Wizard Causes a Suicide
    D.C. Stephenson – 1925
    Causation Requirements
    Lori Drew – 2006
    Causation in the States
    Criminal Law’s Reliance Upon Ordinary People’s Intuitive Judgments of Causation

    6 Consent: Marquis De Sade’s Sadomasochism
    The Marquis de Sade – 1768
    Consent to Injury
    Marvin Samuels – 1964
    Consent to Injury in the States
    Should a Society Avoid Gaps between the Criminal Law Rules and Its Societal Norms?
    Consent as a Defense: Sexual Offenses
    Appendix: Revised Model Penal Code Article 213. Sexual Offenses

    7 Attempt: From Child Rape to Cannibal Cop
    H.M. Wooldridge – 1916
    Blaec Lammers – 2012
    Current Diversity in Attempt Liability Requirements
    What Should Be the Objective and Culpability Requirements for Attempt?
    Cannibal Cop – 2012
    Fantasy and Irresolute Intention

    8 Complicity: The Haymarket Riots
    August Spies – 1886
    Cardinal Bernard Law – 2003
    Current Diversity in Complicity Liability Rules
    What Should Be the Culpability Requirements for Complicity?

    9 Conspiracy: Lincoln’s Non-Assassins
    Samuel Arnold – 1865
    Conspiracy and the Complicity Liability of Co-Conspirators
    Shellie Marie Schorovsky – 1997
    Diversity Among the States Regarding Pinkerton and Withdrawal
    Should a State Adopt the Pinkerton Rule? A Withdrawal Defense?

    10 Omissions: The Richest Woman in America Neglects Her Son
    Hetty Green – 1882
    Omission Liability
    Rebecca and Timothy Wyland – 2010
    Diversity Among the States Regarding Child Neglect
    What Duties Should a Parent Have to a Child the Breach of Which Would Create Criminal Liability?

    Part II. General Defenses

    11 Lesser Evils: Cannibalism at Sea
    Thomas Dudley – 1884
    Lesser Evils Justification
    Wolfgang Daschner – 2002
    Diversity Among the States for a Lesser Evils Defense
    Do We Really Need a General Justification (Lesser Evils/Necessity) Defense?

    12 Self-Defense: Slave Celia Defends Against Rape
    Slave Celia – 1855
    Bernhard Goetz – 1984
    Diversity Among the States on Self-Defense
    To What Threats Should the Right to Use Deadly Defensive Force Be Limited?

    13 Law Enforcement Authority: Gunfight at the OK Corral
    Wyatt Earp – 1881
    Law Enforcement Authority
    Law Enforcement Authority in the States
    Is the All-or-Nothing Approach to Mistake as to a Justification to be Preferred over the Sliding-Scale Approach?
    Elton Hymon – 1974

    14 Insanity: The Assassination of President Garfield
    Charles Guiteau – 1881
    Insanity Defense
    Insanity Defense Cognitive Dysfunction in the States
    John Hinckley – 1981
    Insanity Defense Control Dysfunction in the States
    How Broad Should the Insanity Defense Be?

    15 Immaturity: Billy the Kid’s First Killing
    Henry McCarty – 1871
    Immaturity Excuse
    Christopher Pittman – 2001
    Immaturity Defense in the States
    What Immaturity Defense, If Any, Should Be Available for Murder?

    16 Statute of Limitation: Hunting Nazi War Criminals
    Walter Rauff – 1962
    Statute of Limitations
    Should Statutes of Limitation be Narrowed?
    Oskar Groening – 2014
    Statutes of Limitation in American States

    17 Entrapment: Mary Queen of Scots Plots an Overthrow
    Mary Queen of Scots – 1587
    Entrapment Defense
    John DeLorean – 1982
    Entrapment Defenses in the States
    Is the Entrapment Defense an Excuse or a Non-Exculpatory Defense?

    Part III. Specific Offenses

    18 Endangerment: Causing the Johnstown Flood
    South Fork Hunting and Fishing Club – 1889
    Distinguishing Intentional Killing from Culpable Risk-Taking
    Criminalizing Risk-Creation Alone
    Tequilla Newsome – 1990
    Endangerment Statutes in the States
    Are General Reckless Endangerment Offenses Necessary?

    19 Extortion: Blackmailing Elvis Presley
    Dr. Laurenz Griessel-Landau – 1959
    Robert "Joe" Halderman – 2009
    Extortion Variations Among the States
    What Is the Proper Formulation for a Blackmail Offense?

    20 Domestic Violence: Ike and Tina Turner: What’s Love Got to Do with It?
    Ike Turner – 1960
    Changing Views on Domestic Violence
    Examples of Reform: Marital Rape Exemption and Required Police Intervention
    Cody Latimer – 2016
    Is It Important for Criminal Law to Keep Up with the Community’s Changing Norms?

    21 Harassment: Wooing Bette Davis
    Alexander Ross – 1936
    Changing Views on Stalking and Harassment
    Joshua Corbett – 2014
    Current State of Harassment and Stalking Offenses
    Do Today’s Stalking Offenses Violate the Proportionality Principle?
    Appendix: Sample Harassment and Stalking Statute

    22 Statutory Rape: Oscar Wilde’s Sodomy
    Oscar Wilde – 1895
    Statutory Rape
    Zachery Anderson – 2014
    Statutory Rape Definitions in the States
    Contemplating the Diversity Among the States

    23 Adultery: Frank Sinatra and a Changing Morality
    Frank Sinatra – 1938
    Laura and William Geisselman – 1919
    Adultery Offenses in the States
    Using the Criminal Law for Morality Enforcement
    Is It Useful or Problematic to Have a Criminal Offense That Is Rarely If Ever Enforced?

    24 Obscenity: Fanny Hill, the Most Prosecuted Book in History
    John Cleland’s Fanny Hill – 1821
    Changing Views of Obscenity
    Larry Flynt and Hustler Magazine – 1976
    Obscenity Offenses in the States
    Should Criminal Law Be in the Morality Enforcement Business?

    25 Child Pornography: Lewis Carroll Photographs Alice in Wonderland
    Lewis Carroll – 1859
    Child Pornography
    Cormega Copening – 2015
    Protected-Age Diversity Among the States
    Does Child Pornography Justify the Serious Treatment It Is Given Today?

    26 Deceptive Business Practices: Collier’s Great American Fraud
    Anglo-American Drug Company – 1907
    Consumer Protection
    Samuel Girod – 2016
    Criminalizing Deceptive Business Practices in the States
    Why Would a Jurisdiction Fail to Have a Full Deceptive Business Practices Offense?

    27 Rigging Sporting Events: The Dean of Race Fixing
    Peter Barrie – 1934
    Attempts to Regulate Gaming
    Tulane Basketball – 1985
    Sports Fixing Offenses in the States

    28 Anti-Competition: Vanderbilt’s Market Manipulation
    Cornelius Vanderbilt – 1866
    Responding to the Growing Power of Economic Titans and their Corporations
    Swift Meats – 1905
    Anti-Competition Offenses in the States
    How Can There Be Such a Thing as a Price So Low as to Be Criminal?

    29 RICO: Joe Bananas Builds a Criminal Empire
    Joe Bonanno – 1931
    David Camez – 2010
    RICO In the States

    Part IV. Supplemental Issues

    30 Jurisdiction: The Aaron Burr-Alexander Hamilton Duel
    Aaron Burr – 1804
    Danny Gayheart – 2005
    Variations in State Jurisdictional Requirements
    Does the Trend Toward Broader State Jurisdiction Create More Overlapping Jurisdiction Among the States for Which the Criminal Law Diversity among the States Is a Problem?

    31 Extradition and Rendition: The Hatfields and McCoys Feud
    Devil Anse Hatfield – 1888
    Fugitive Transfers Between the States
    Why Would a State Issue a Warrant for a Violent Felon but Refuse to Extradite Him When Captured by Another State?
    Dr. Alvarez Machain and the Torture of DEA Agent Enrique Camarena-Salazar – 1985

    32 Patterns and Themes
    A March Toward More Nuanced Blameworthiness Judgments
    Increased Governmental Willingness to Intrude in People’s Lives
    Criminal Law Tracking Changing Norms

    List of Chapter Glossary Terms



    Paul H. Robinson is one of the world’s leading criminal law scholars. A prolific writer and lecturer, Robinson has published articles in virtually all of the top law reviews, lectured in more than 100 cities in 33 states and 27 countries, and had his writings appear in 13 languages. A former federal prosecutor and counsel for the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Criminal Laws and Procedures, he was the lone dissenter when the U.S. Sentencing Commission promulgated the current federal sentencing guidelines. He is the author or editor of 17 books, including the standard lawyer’s reference on criminal law defenses, three monographs on criminal law theory, a highly regarded criminal law treatise, and an innovative case studies course book.

    Sarah M. Robinson is a former sergeant in the U.S. Army and a practiced social worker. She currently works as an author and researcher. 

    "Paul Robinson creates a rich tapestry of the past and present of the criminal law, weaving together cases from the distant past with contemporary controversies, unearthing the theoretical underpinnings of these legal questions, and illustrating the myriad contemporary approaches across the states. This is a book of both breadth and depth that will give readers an indispensable structure to thinking through these enduring puzzles of the criminalization of culpable wrongs."
    Kimberly Kessler Ferzan, Earle Hepburn Professor of Law and Professor of Philosophy, University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School

    "I can think of no better way for newcomers to introduce themselves to the criminal law. It won’t do just to look at a bunch of rules we call the 'criminal law.' Those rules need to be brought to life: to be placed in the context of their time. One needs to know how and why the rules are as they are, and when and why they change as they do. That’s a tall order, but the Robinsons deliver. An excellent and sophisticated introduction to criminal law for non-experts and undergraduates."
    Stephen P. Garvey, A. Robert Noll Professor of Law, Cornell Law School

    "American Criminal Law: Its People, Principles, and Evolution is quite simply a remarkable book. More than any other book I know, it succeeds in making criminal law come alive. Its lively writing style and truly deft selection of illustrative cases brings home the ethical and human complexities that are often hidden behind legal abstractions. Bravo!"
    Austin Sarat, William Nelson Cromwell Professor Jurisprudence and Political Science, Amherst College

    "While criminal law ought to be one of the most engaging topics, too often its presentation is anything but. With notions such as pursuing justice and fairness, thwarting cronyism and corruption, evaluating shifting societal norms, and balancing various competing interests – few subjects are worthy rivals. It's no surprise that Paul Robinson, a national treasure and unsurpassed expert on criminal law has achieved what no one else has been able to do thus far, introduce the topic to future expert and layperson alike in a manner that is as exciting as it is informative. With American Criminal Law, Paul has yet again set a new benchmark."
    Robert Steinbuch, Law Professor, University of Arkansas at Little Rock

    "Paul Robinson's American Criminal Law: Its People, Principles, and Evolution is an absolute treat. Using a series of historical incidents, both well-known and obscure, Robinson cleverly constructs a page-turner that is not only fully accessible to the general public but also manages effortlessly to teach deep lessons about controversial as well as non-controversial aspects of substantive criminal law. It is a tour de force that will delight and educate everyone."      
    Morris B. Hoffman, District Judge (ret.), State of Colorado; Member, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience; author of The Punisher's Brain: The Evolution of Judge and Jury

    "Based on immense, wide-ranging erudition and sparkling creativity, Paul Robinson’s American Criminal Law is a fascinating introduction like no other. Using unconventional but insightful materials, the text will challenge students to consider the genuine principles and concerns that animate American Criminal Law. It will without doubt create the most interesting course imaginable, generating fascinating discussions with unforgettable examples. If I were teaching the course, it is unthinkable that I would choose another text. The book is a triumph."
    Stephen J. Morse, Ferdinand Wakeman Hubbell Professor of Law and Professor of Psychology & Law in Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania 

    "American Criminal Law presents the principles and competing interests in criminal law in a manner particularly appropriate for undergraduate students. The authors’ leveraging of students’ innate interest in crime—through the use of illustrating cases—coupled with their innovative pedagogical approach, make this an ideal text for courses in a range of programs.
    Raymond V. Carman Jr., Ph.D., Department of Political Science, SUNY College at Plattsburgh

    "American Criminal Law offers a very clever approach to teaching this area of law. By focusing on concepts and patters of application – rather than the typical doctrine of a casebook – this text is better suited than most at helping students to become better thinkers about criminal law." 
    Keith Richotte Jr., J.D., L.L.M., Ph.D., Associate Professor of American Studies, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Associate Justice of the Turtle Mountain Tribal Court of Appeals