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NCJ Number: 125924 Find in a Library
Title: Ostrich Instruction: Deliberate Ignorance as a Criminal Mens Rea
Journal: Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology  Volume:81  Issue:2  Dated:(Summer 1990)  Pages:191-234
Author(s): I P Robbins
Date Published: 1990
Page Count: 44
Type: Historical Overview
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: In order to eliminate the loophole which allows one to escape conviction by the "deliberate ignorance" doctrine, the Federal courts have expanded the definition of knowledge of a fact to include awareness of a "high probability" of its existence.
Abstract: The so-called "ostrich instruction" informs a jury that actual knowledge and deliberate avoidance of knowledge are the same. The question this approach raises is whether a conviction based on the "ostrich instruction" is compatible with the constitutional requirement that the prosecution prove each element of the crime, including knowledge, beyond a reasonable doubt. While acknowledging the legal loophole, the article concludes that the expanded definition of knowledge of the Model Penal Code is an unacceptable solution. Rather than knowledge, it is determined that deliberate ignorance constitutes recklessness. The history of the deliberate ignorance doctrine is explored, as is its application in American law. The philosophical and legal definitions of knowledge are discussed. The author concludes that a statutory revision which adds recklessness or specific deliberate-ignorance provisions as an alternative basis for conviction would both limit the loophole and resolve the constitutional issues arising from current Federal court practices. 265 references.
Main Term(s): Jury instructions; Legal doctrines
Index Term(s): Constitutional Rights/Civil Liberties; Jury decisionmaking; Laws and Statutes; Statutory presumptions
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