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Reasonable Doubt
"If he were to be carried somewhere by a wind, or by men who had him in their power."

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United States
Reasonable Doubt

Justice Breyer Dissent
June 22, 2006
Seal Of The Supreme Court

Courts have long recognized that "duress" constitutes a defense to a criminal charge. Historically, that defense "excuse[d] criminal conduct" if (1) a "threat of imminent death or serious bodily injury" led the defendant to commit the crime, (2) the defendant had no reasonable, legal alternative to breaking the law, and (3) the defendant was not responsible for creating the threat.

...The defendant's criminal activity here was voluntary; no external principle, such as the wind, propelled her when she acted. (THE NICOMACHEAN ETHICS of Aristotle) Moreover, her actions were intentional. Whether she wanted to buy the guns or not, and whether she wanted to lie while doing so or not, she decided to do these things and knew that she was doing them. Indeed, her action was willful in the sense that she knew that to do them was to break the law.

Text Excerpt:


Since virtue is concerned with passions and actions, and on voluntary passions and actions praise and blame are bestowed, on those that are involuntary pardon, and sometimes also pity, to distinguish the voluntary and the involuntary is presumably necessary for those who are studying the nature of virtue, and useful also for legislators with a view to the assigning both of honours and of punishments. Those things, then, are thought involuntary, which take place under compulsion or owing to ignorance; and that is compulsory of which the moving principle is outside, being a principle in which nothing is contributed by the person who is acting or is feeling the passion, e.g. if he were to be carried somewhere by a wind, or by men who had him in their power.