Skip to main content


Jack D. and John D. are brothers. Jack is 17 years old; John is 25.

Jack has no prior criminal record. He attends the local high school where he is doing well; he is liked by his classmates. His development, physical as well as intellectual and mental, is in the normal range for a young man of his age. He lives with his parents. He has no driving license yet.

John has two prior convictions for theft, the first one a fine imposed five years ago, the second one a term of imprisonment of 18 months imposed three years ago. John has paid the fine and served the full prison term. The convictions have not yet been expunged from his criminal record. John dropped out of the local high school when he was 17 and has been working in the same car repair shop on and off ever since. He is a good and reliable car mechanic, which is why his employer, Peter V., took him back after his prison term. John has his own vintage, second-hand sports car, which he is forever tuning in his spare time. He has so far managed to install an airbag on the driver’s side only. The car did not have airbags when he bought it.

John rents a little flat in which he lives with his 23-year-old girlfriend Mary J.,  whom he had met three months before starting to serve his prison sentence. Mary is a dog trainer and a volunteer in a care home for elderly people. Two years ago, she passed a first aid training programme.

On Friday, 26 March 2021, Jack, John and Mary decide to have a joint night out to celebrate John’s pay raise he got that morning. At around 8 pm, they drive to John’s favourite bar, the “Blue Moon”, in John’s car to have a meal and few drinks. Jack does not drink alcohol, so he drinks a few Cokes, while John has one beer after the other.

At around 10.30 pm, John is quite drunk and has a blood-alcohol concentration of 1.2 ‰. [1] He gets into a heated argument with another guest, Bill G., and his two friends, Bob L. and Ben K., none of whom he has ever met before. After five minutes, Jack and Mary can persuade him to leave. After settling the bill, they go to John’s car. John’s walk is distinctly wobbly, and Jack and Mary keep telling him he should not drive. John angrily replies that he is fully capable of driving and that the two should shut up, while he opens the driver’s door.

Meanwhile, Bill, Bob and Ben have come into the parking lot and see John’s car. Bill gets a screwdriver from his own car and draws a long and deep scratch across the hood of John’s car. John is livid with rage, gets out of his car, throws himself at Bill and wrenches the screwdriver out of Bill’s hands. He screams at Bill: “I’m gonna kill you, you bastard!”. Mary pushes Bill, shouting “You idiot! Why did you do have to provoke him?! ” John stabs at Bill’s chest and stomach with the screwdriver several times but keeps missing him. However, when Bill slips and falls to the ground, Mary falls over him and John runs the screwdriver through Bill’s neck, injuring an artery. Bill starts bleeding profusely from the neck. Bill’s friends are deeply shocked and try to staunch the flow of blood. They push away Mary who is leaning over Bill with her hands on his neck. She stands up and runs away.

Jack pulls John off the ground and drags him to his car. He puts John in the passenger seat and gets behind the wheel, neither fastening John’s nor his own seat belt for lack of time, starts the engine with the key that had still been in the ignition, and drives away at high speed without turning the lights on. When he hears the engine revving, Bob dashes to his own car to pursue Jack and John, while Ben stays behind with Bill to stop the bleeding and manages to call an ambulance, which arrives seven minutes after Jack drove off. Bill is taken to a nearby hospital and can be saved in an emergency surgery.

Jack obviously does not have a lot of driving experience and is careening wildly along the badly lit inner city streets at an average speed of 130 km/h. He repeatedly disregards red traffic lights at major intersections without slowing down. His whole mind is focused on getting away so that the two of them will not be identified and John will not be caught and have to go to prison again for the screwdriver attack on Bill. He is fully aware that the way he is driving will not allow him to react in time, if another car or a pedestrian were to be in his path. Yet, all he cares about is getting away from Bob – who has barely been keeping up with them at a distance which does not allow him to read John’s numberplate – no matter what the cost.

All of a sudden, when turning a bend in the road, Jack sees 20 m ahead of him Olivia F., who is out on a late evening walk, stepping across the road at a traffic light which is showing green for pedestrians. Jack frantically tries to brake but still hits Olivia at 120 km/h. The impact throws Olivia up in the air; she lands against a house wall, hitting it with her head with full force. She suffers  multiple skull fractures and massive brain trauma and dies instantly. Olivia, who had lost her husband just a year ago, was a single mother and the sole carer of three young children at the ages of three, five and ten.

Jack’s shock about hitting Olivia and the violent braking manoeuvre make him lose control of the car. He collides with a wrought-iron a lamp post at a speed of still 90 km/h, which stops the car instantaneously. Because he was not wearing a seat belt, John crashes through the windshield, suffering severe fractures to his skull, neck, arms and ribs. Jack himself is cushioned by the driver airbag and only suffers fractures to five ribs and a severe whiplash trauma.

From the time Jack, John and Mary left the bar until the crash, 25 minutes have passed. Mary was arrested by two police officers, Greg D. and Cathy P., fifteen minutes after the stabbing incident, in Rose Park Lane, a street about two blocks away from the scene of the incident. Her brother, Steve J., who is a paramedic, lives in that street. In her subsequent interview, she tells the police detective Arthur Z. that she threw herself at Bill and fell over him trying to separate him from John, of whose short temper she was well aware. She was pressing Bill’s neck to staunch the flow of blood. Mary also asserts that she ran to fetch her brother, Steve, who is a paramedic and lives two blocks away from the scene of the fight, but that she was detained by the police just before she could reach his flat. She also states – accurately – that she told the two officers arresting her that she was on her way to get her brother to help Bill.

When John’s employer finds out what happened, he immediately dismisses John.

[1] This may need to be converted for your jurisdiction. See e.g.


  • Jack, John and Mary are being prosecuted for any and all offences that the facts support under your respective domestic jurisdictions, within two weeks after the events.
  • Jack has made a full confession of the above-mentioned facts at trial (but has not entered a plea as such where the law allows for a formal guilty plea).
  • John refuses to cooperate with the authorities and the court at all, and has exercised his right to remain silent (and entered no plea, either).
  • The above facts have been established at trial through 
    • statements of the defendants Jack (full confession) and Mary,
    • witness statements of Bill, Bob, Ben and Peter, as well as Oswald F., Olivia’s brother, and Steve, Mary’s brother,
    • witness statements of police officers Greg D. and Cathy P, and police detective Arthur Z.,
    • statement of police officer Craig H. regarding the prior criminal records of Jack, John and Mary ,
    • expert evidence
      • regarding the blood alcohol level of John after a specimen was taken at the scene of the accident, causation and type of injuries (Medical expert Dr Ellen A.)
      • and the speed at which the car hit Olivia and the lamp-post (Accident expert Ernest B.);
    • the first aid certificate of Mary J




  •  This includes the choice of trial court which would have jurisdiction for such a case and the full rubrum of the parties attending the trial etc.
  • Where necessary under your law, charges have been laid/pressed by the victims or their relatives.
  • You may have to improvise a bit when drafting the description and evaluation of the details of the testimony of each witness and expert, as long as it is clear that they fully support the facts set out above.
  • Witnesses should be treated as being credible and reliable.
  • Remember that the exercise is primarily aimed at showing different styles of judgment writing, not so much at the differences in the law.
  • All procedural requirements before and at trial have been complied with, including potential pre-sentencing reports etc. Please understand that we cannot tailor the case to each and every jurisdictions particularities. If you think it needs to be mentioned, then feel free to add a section on specific things happening which are required in your system – but flag them up as such in a separate note added to the trial scenario.
  • Jurisdictions using juries as sole fact-finders should assume that the defendants opted for a judge-only trial with the need for a reasoned judgment, where that is possible under the law. If no judge-only trial is available in your jurisdiction, please draft the instructions of the judge to the jury – and as far as a conviction should ensue in your view, the hypothetical sentencing comments and sentence of the judge.