LA2003 Criminal Justice Case Studies: Criminal Law and Prosecution

By Editorial Team Last updated: Dec 29, 2021

LA2003 Criminal Justice Case Studies: Criminal Law and Prosecution

For the case studies in this competency, you will revisit case studies used in a previous competency—but with some details changed.

The Case of the Smith Family Shooting

Re-read the case study below. Imagine that you are the prosecutor and that the following details are also part of the scenario:

  • The son is 19 years old.
  • The gun on the upper shelf is the son’s, although it (along with all the other guns) is not registered.
  • The mother denies having been physically abused by the father.
  • The son has a prior arrest for assault.
  • The father called the police on his son 2 years ago for threatening him with a knife, but the father did not pursue any legal action.

Mrs. Smith called emergency dispatchers at 3:00 .m. to report a shooting. As the responding officer, you observe the following:

Mrs. Smith says that she and her husband had been arguing and that at one point her husband threatened to shoot her and her son. Mrs. Smith says, “He spouts off things like that, but he never does anything about it. He has a temper. But I’d had enough of his meanness and coming home late, so I went to the bathroom to put myself together and get out of there for a while."

In response to being asked if she planned to take her son, she says, “No. I always come back.”

Johnny, the Smith’s 12-year-old son, woke up because he heard his parents arguing. He says that they fight often, “but this time the fighting seemed a lot crazier than usual.” Johnny says that his father went outside, slamming the door. Johnny then says, “I picked up the living room gun off the coffee table and went to his bedroom.” He reports that his father keeps “other guns” around the house, unlocked and in the open. During the witness interview you observe a second gun on an upper bookshelf in the living room, in an unlocked case, and a subsequent search of the home uncovers a third gun, not in a case, on a kitchen counter near the back door.

Johnny continues to say that when Mr. Smith came back in the house, he continued yelling at Mrs. Smith from the living room. “I fixed the car so you can’t leave!” Mr. Smith yelled. “Where you going to go at this time, anyway?” Johnny said he took the revolver he had taken out of the case it had been in, and told his mother to stay in the bathroom. He then walked into the living room. As Mr. Smith stood up and started walking towards

Johnny, Johnny fired the gun at his father. Johnny says that he fired the gun because he was afraid that his father might hurt his mother.

The mother claims that she did not hear Johnny in the hall until the gun was fired. The father suffered a minor injury on his right hand from grabbing the hot, recently fired gun from Johnny. The bullet is found lodged in a neighbor’s car parked on the street, causing damage to the window and interior. The neighbor inquires about how he could “get those jerks to pay for fixing my car.”

The father, when approached while being tended to by the EMS, smells of alcohol. He says, “That boy knows better than to touch my guns. I’ve told him to leave them alone a hundred times. He should know better.”

The Case of the High School Fight

Re-read the case study below. Imagine that you are a prosecutor and that the following details are also part of the scenario:

  • Jake’s parents want to press charges against Tony.

You are called to the local high school to investigate an altercation between two students, Scott, and Tony. At the scene, you observe two students injured on the curb of the parking lot, near a new sports car. One student, named Jake, has blood coming from his head and is laying on his back. The other student, Scott, is holding his shoulder and has contusions on his arm and face. Jake, the boy on his back, seems groggy, and two witnesses say he hit his head hard on the curb. After EMTs arrive, stabilize Jake, and tend to Scott, you conduct the following interviews.

Tony says, “Scott and me trash talk each other all the time. We’re not friends, really, but we’re not exactly enemies.” He says that he just received the new sports car a few days ago. “Scott comes over, after talking his usual trash, and pulls his keys out. Like he’s going to gouge the paint on my new car.” He claims that Scott made a big show of doing this—there were many witnesses, but most had dispersed. Tony adds, “So I tackled him. But he didn’t go down right away. We started trying to get each other down. I started swinging. He started swinging. Things got out of hand. It’s not like I saw Jake. I didn’t mean to hit him.”

Scott’s story matches Tony’s, and Tony admits to the taunting. However, he adds, “I wasn’t going to wreck his car. I like his car. Scott’s a friend. I was just playing. I was just trying to defend myself. Jake’s a friend, too. Scott didn’t mean to hit him. He was just swinging wildly. All I saw was that a punch missed me, hit Jake, and Jake fell backward and hit his head on the cement.”

The EMTs decide to take Jake to the hospital, possibly for an MRI due to the blow to the head. He shows signs of a possible concussion. He says, “I was just trying to break it up.”

You interview three witnesses who had remained on the scene, tending to Jake until help arrived. All three corroborate the story, saying that Jake was trying to break up the fight.

The Case of the Late-Night Robbery

Re-read the case study below. Then, imagine that you are a prosecutor and that the following details are also part of the scenario:

  • Edwin was arrested and charged with unlawful entry and attempted burglary.
  • Edwin does not claim to have known anything about the homeowner, including that he thought he was wealthy.
  • In fact, Edwin doesn’t remember much about the night before being arrested.

You respond to the home of an 84-year-old male who called 911 to report an intruder and another call about gunshots fired. You were just two blocks away and managed to apprehend an individual climbing a fence adjacent to the home.

The suspect is named Edwin and is described as a 32-year-old male who is 6’2” tall and weighs 275 pounds. He admits to spending Saturday evening at the local pub. “I left after the jerk bartender refused to serve me. Said I was too drunk. I wasn’t too drunk to climb that fence, was I?”

On his way home from the bar, Edwin decided to try robbing the home. “I’ve seen that old man before. I pass by his house all the time. Looks like he’s got a lot of money,” says Edwin. He had kicked his way through a back patio door and into the enclosed porch of the residence. “I figured that guy couldn’t hear—probably had hearing aids. So, I kept going. Of course, then the crazy old guy’s standing in his robe with his gun pointing at me. No way was he going to shoot. Then he shoots!”

According to the homeowner, despite being warned away, Edwin continued to break through the door. The owner says that he heard Edwin break into the home. “I have good hearing for my age,” says the owner. “But he wasn’t trying to be stealthy, it seemed. I called 911 from my bedside phone. Then I grabbed my shotgun. I thought I recognized him from walking by here. I fired that warning shot,” said the owner. “I tried to fire into the dirt, through the broken window, so as to not harm anyone with a stray bullet. Then he ran right out the door.”




Part one:

In 250-500 words 

  • Identify the criminal justice agencies that may want to claim jurisdiction in the case study you chose.
  • Explain briefly why each agency would want to claim jurisdiction and what the benefit would be to each agency.
  • Explain briefly why an agency may NOT want to assume jurisdiction.
  • To what degree should ethical considerations, such as what is best for the victim, the community, or even the offender, factor into jurisdictional decisions?

Part two:

In 500-700 words

  • Select one of the case studies discussed in Part 1. Then, choose one of the agencies and imagine that you are going to argue to your superior that your agency deserves jurisdiction.
  • Write a report explaining why your agency deserves—or may not want—jurisdiction. Expand upon and build support for the brief explanation from above.
    • Be sure to state your position and draw upon examples from the case study and learning resources to support your position.




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