Would Frankenstein’s Monster be legally competent to stand trial for the death of Little Maria in the 1931 Universal Classic Frankenstein? Should the Monster be held to the standard for an adult or a child?
San Diego Comic Fest is celebrating the bicentennial of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein over the weekend of April 20-22, 2018 at the Town and Country Resort and Convention Center. The Creature has the honor of being one of the first pop culture references in a court opinion, by Chief Justice William Pryor, of the Court of Appeals of Kentucky, in the 1896 case Todd v. Dunlap.
People v. Frankenstein’s Monster and Dr. Henry Frankenstein
We are seeking law students to argue a two-part motion hearing. In the 1931 film, the Creature befriended a young girl named Maria. Both Maria and the Creature tossed flowers in a lake to watch them float. The Creature tossed Maria in the water, thinking the girl would float like one of the flowers. To the Creature’s horror, Maria drowned.
Is the Creature Legally Competent to Stand Trial?
The Creature is charged with the murder of Little Maria. Does the Creature legally have the mental capacity of a child? Or should the Creature be held to the standards of an adult? Attorneys for the Creature will bring a motion that the Creature is not legally competent to stand trial as a minor, because the Creature lacks sufficient present ability to consult with counsel and assist in preparing his defense with a reasonable degree of rational understanding under Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 709(a). The Prosecution opposes, challenging the application of the standard for minors, as the Creature is nearly seven feet tall with the body of an adult. The Prosecution will argue the Creature is a competent adult with competency needing to be based upon the requirements and procedures outlined in Cal. Penal Code § 1367.
Is Dr. Frankenstein Criminally Responsible for the Creature’s Actions?
The state will charge Dr. Henry Frankenstein with contributing to the delinquency of the Creature under Cal. Penal Code § 272, due to his failure as the Monster’s legal guardian to exercise reasonable care, supervision, protection, and control over the Creature, resulting in the deaths of Little Maria, Fritz, and Dr. Waldman. Dr. Frankenstein is also charged with Murder in the Second Degree pursuant to Cal. Penal Code § 187.
Attorneys for Dr. Frankenstein will bring a motion to set aside the indictment under Cal. Penal Code § 995, because the charge is not found, endorsed, and presented as prescribed under the California Penal Code, because the law does not speak to contributory delinquency for reanimated human remains. Cal. Penal Code § 272 applies to children and the Monster is not a child. Moreover, there is no probable cause for charging Dr. Frankenstein for the Monster’s actions resulting in Little Maria’s death. The Prosecution will oppose the motion and argue that Dr. Henry Frankenstein’s failure to exercise the reasonable care, supervision, protection, and control over the Monster, resulted in the deaths of three people.
Purpose of the Mock Trial
The purpose of the mock hearings are to explore what it means to be human. Should the Creature be viewed as a “person,” with legal rights, or as something artificial, like a machine? If the Creature is a human being, what is his relationship to his original bodies and brain, or is he a completely new individual? Is Dr. Frankenstein the Creature’s “father” under the law, or a different legal relationship, like a creator of a product?
Law students will be able to prepare arguments, conduct the direct and cross-examination of expert witnesses, have attorney mentors, and argue their case before California Judge Carol Najera over whether Frankenstein’s Monster could stand trial for murder of Little Maria and Dr. Frankenstein’s criminal liability. Interested law students should apply below.