Criminal Law and Procedure


August 13, 2010

Professor Jacobs’ first year law class was a real bore. For fifteen years, he had taught Introduction to Criminal Law and Procedure and he had obviously lost interest in the curriculum. In his defense, it’s difficult for any teacher to make interesting a class about ‘procedure’ and to be fair, Jacobs was no longer motivated to try.

On the first class of the first semester of a new year, the lecture hall was filled with the energy of excited students. He hadn’t said a word yet but Professor Jacobs’ was already depressed.

“Please sit down everyone,” he said in a dead tone. “Today we will begin with the introduction to criminal law. Learning to navigate the Canadian legal system is a complex task but it is important that you learn the distinction between British Common Law and French Civil law and how both system are subject to the constitution.” Wow, was he ever bored.

He continued, “At this juncture, I like to demonstrate that the legal system affects us by asking people for their own challenges interacting with it.” Someone asked about getting out of a parking ticket; someone else asked about environmental protection. Yeah, yeah, yeah, thought the professor. Then someone asked, “If somebody kills a guy what kind of evidence do the cops look for?”

Jacobs pulled his head off his desk to look at the man, about 25, bald, dressed in a tight, borrowed suit that his muscled arms were about to tear open. Tattoos flowed down his neck and out the bottom of his shirt sleeves onto the back of his hands.

“What?” replied the surprised professor.

“Let’s say it’s clear one guy killed another other guy but the other guy was a jerk, would that information sway the jury?”

“What kind of a jerk? Was he a criminal?” asked Jacobs.

“He was never convicted of anything but he was unnecessary, in the global sense. A real asshole.”

“Are you basing this on an existing case?”

“Okay, it was me. I killed a guy. Wow, that feels good to finally get off my chest. I’m glad that everything in this room is confidential.”

“This is a university lecture. Nothing is confidential.”

“Oh,” said the man, a little concerned. “Well, everyone better keep their damn mouths shut.” He waved a finger at other three hundred students.

One of those students piped up, “Professor, can we leave?”

“No!” said the professor, “This is the most interesting thing that’s ever happened in this class! Continue, sir. What were you saying?”

He did. “I’d rather not get into the details. Professor, let me ask you this…do you feel like killers have a choice?”

“I think there are many factors at play. Poverty, for instance, forces people to take drastic action to preserve their own survival.”

The man rolled up his suit sleeves. “I think that some people are monsters and they can’t help themselves. Destruction is part of their personality and sometimes that destruction gets focused on a person with deadly results. However, I don’t think these people should be locked away. I think this trait should be treated like a disability, something like tourettes. But instead of swearing, I murder a guy sometimes. That doesn’t mean I can’t be useful. I could bag groceries. I could deliver furniture.”

“Interesting,” said the enthralled Jacobs, who was now standing, stroking his chin.

“Professor,” pipped another student, “we’d like to leave the room.”

“No! We’re going to discuss this. Everyone get into groups of eight and come up with for and against arguments for the idea proposed by Mister…”


“Mr. Bloodfirst.” The professor put a chair next to Bloodfist’s desk. “If you don’t mind, I would love to join your group.”

“Please do. And while we’re at it, maybe we could discuss what makes a convincing alibi?”

“A real alibi is best.”

“No doubt. But what if you murdered your alibi before he could talk to the police?”