Corpus delicti


Corpus delicti

Corpus delicti (plural: corpora delicti) (Latin: "body of crime") is a term from Western jurisprudence referring to the principle that a crime must have been proven to have occurred before a person can be convicted of committing that crime. For example, a person cannot be tried for larceny unless it can be proven that property has been stolen. Likewise, in order for a person to be tried for arson it must be proven that a criminal act resulted in the burning of a property. Black's Law Dictionary (6th ed.) defines "corpus delicti" as: "the fact of a crime having been actually committed".

In the Anglo-American legal system, the concept has its outgrowth in several principles. Many jurisdictions hold as a legal rule that a defendant's out-of-court confession, alone, is insufficient evidence to prove the defendant's guilt beyond reasonable doubt.[1] A corollary to this rule is that an accused cannot be convicted solely upon the testimony of an accomplice. Some jurisdictions also hold that without first showing independent corroboration that a crime happened, the prosecution may not introduce evidence of the defendant's statement.

Corpus Delicti is one of the most important concepts in a murder investigation. When a person disappears and cannot be contacted, many police agencies initiate a missing person case. If, during the course of the investigation, detectives believe that he/she has been murdered, then a "body" of evidentiary items including physical, demonstrative, and testimonial evidence, must be obtained to establish that the missing individual has indeed been murdered before a suspect can be charged with homicide.[2] The best and easiest evidence establishment in these cases is the physical body of the deceased. However, in the event that a physical body is not obviously present or has not yet been discovered, it is possible to prove a crime took place if sufficient circumstantial evidence is presented to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.[3]

Contents

Specific Offenses

General - All corpus delicti requires at a minimum: 1) The occurrence of the specific injury; and 2) some criminal agency as the source of the injury. For example:

  • Homicide - 1.) An individual has died; and 2.) By a criminal act.
  • Larceny - 1.) Property missing; and 2.) Because it was stolen

In essence Corpus delecti of crimes refers to a palpable harm. Where there is no violation of an established right there can be no wrong.

Rights are of two kinds and they are of the person jura personarum and to control external objects, jura rerum.

Wrongs are also of two kinds and they are either public or private. Public wrongs are called crimes or public offenses whereas private wrongs are called torts and either involve the breach of a duty of care, a wrongful trespass against the person or property of another and breaches of agreement or contract.

In every instance there must be a palpable harm or injury to the rights of another coupled with mens rea or guilty mind or in the alternative an element of negligence so severe as to be called criminal.

See Blackstone's commentaries book 1 beginning about pg 52.

Misinterpretation

Evidence in the case of British serial killer John George Haigh indicated that he decided to destroy the bodies of his victims with acid because he had the mistaken belief that, in the absence of a corpse, murder could not be proven because there was no "corpus delicti." Haigh had misinterpreted the Latin word "corpus" as a literal body rather than a figurative one.

See also

References

  1. ^ See, e.g., Wong Sun v. United States, 371 U.S. 471, 497 n.14, 83 S.Ct. 407, 9 L.Ed.2d 441 (1963 (citing to corpus delicti rule and stating: "For the history and development of the corroboration requirement, see 7 Wigmore, Evidence [3d ed. 1940], §§ 2070-2071; Note, Proof of the Corpus Delicti Aliunde the Defendant's Confession, 103 U. of Pa. L. Rev. 638-649 [1955]. For the present scope and application of the rule, see 2 Underhill, Criminal Evidence [5th ed. 1956], §§ 402-403. For a comprehensive collection of cases, see Annot., 45 A. L. R.2d 1316 [1956].")
  2. ^ A Scream on the Water: A True Story of Murder in Salem - Margaret Press
  3. ^ Criminal Investigation - Bruce Berg

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Corpus\ delicti — Corpus Delicti …   Deutsche Rechtschreibung Änderungen

  • Corpus\ delicti — Corpus Delicti …   Wörterbuch Veränderungen in der deutschen Rechtschreibung

  • corpus delicti — corpus de·lic·ti / di lik ˌtī, dā , tē/ n [New Latin, literally, the body of the offense]: the substance of a crime that the prosecutor must prove and that consists of an injury or loss (as death of a victim or disappearance of property) and the… …   Law dictionary

  • Corpus Delicti — Pays d’origine Nice,  France Genre musical Rock gothique, batcave, death rock Années d activité …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Corpus Delicti — Жанры Готик рок Годы 1993–1998 Страна …   Википедия

  • Corpus Delicti — can refer to: Corpus delicti, a legal term Corpus Delicti (band), a gothic rock band Corpus Delicti (album), an album by Die Form This disambiguation page lists articles associated with the same title. If an …   Wikipedia

  • Corpus delicti — Corpus Cor pus ( p[u^]s), n.; pl. {Corpora} ( p[ o]*r[.a]). [L.] A body, living or dead; the corporeal substance of a thing. [1913 Webster] {Corpus callosum} (k[a^]l*l[=o] s[u^]m); pl. {Corpora callosa} ( s?) [NL., callous body] (Anat.), the… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • corpus delicti — means literally ‘the body of a crime’, and refers to all the facts and circumstances that together constitute a breach of the law. In lay use, it means the concrete evidence of a crime, especially the body of a murdered person. • ‘Well, where is… …   Modern English usage

  • corpus delicti — [də lik′tī΄, di lik′tē΄] n. [ModL, lit., body of the crime] 1. the facts constituting or proving a crime; material substance or foundation of a crime: the corpus delicti in a murder case is not just the body of the victim, but the fact that the… …   English World dictionary

  • corpus delicti — лат. (корпус дэликти) состав преступления; совокупность признаков, характеризующих преступление; вещественное доказательство, основные улики. Толковый словарь иностранных слов Л. П. Крысина. М: Русский язык, 1998 …   Словарь иностранных слов русского языка

  • Corpus delicti — (lat.), 1) der Inbegriff der zu einem Verbrechen erforderlichen Handlung, der Thatbestand; 2) die Gewißheit der Existenz derselben; 3) die verletzte Person od. Sache, s. u. Gottesurtheil; 4) die Werkzeuge, durch welche das Verbrechen begangen… …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon


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