National burger chain McBurgers hires A for a minimum-wage position. When A starts work, she learns about the intense rivalry between McBurgers and its chief competitor, Burger Lord.
During A’s first night at work, the other night-shift employees, including manager B, approach A. “What’s up, guys?” A asks. With B at the fore, the other employees silently surround A and back her towards the fryer. “Guys?” asks A again, growing nervous.
A furrows her brow in perplexity as B hands her a mask; the mask is modeled after the face of the McBurgers mascot. B then says, “A, we have your kid brother, as an insurance policy of sorts. That’s why we made you give us your address on the work application.” A stammers, confused and terrified, looking down at the smiling mask in her hands. “You see, A,” B continues, “we here at McBurgers demand loyalty. To prove yourself, you’ll need to pass a little test.”
B goes on to explain that, if A does not don the mask and set the local Burger Lord on fire (using fry grease as an incendiary), A will see her brother again only in the form of Order Number 5, “mystery meat nuggets.” At that moment, A hears a muffled cry from the meat storage locker; A assumes the cry comes from her little brother. B then runs his hands menacingly over a fileting knife, which A assumes B will use to kill her brother if she doesn’t comply.
A then dons the mask and leaves the store. She takes a quick look at her cell phone and notices that she has full reception; she turns the phone off, so there will be no record of her whereabouts. Having done so, A drives to the local Burger Lord and torches it. As she is leaving the scene, the police arrive and arrest her.
A recounts the above facts to the officers, who listen to her story and then rush to the McBurgers restaurant. There, they seek but do not find A’s brother. As it turns out, the brother is safe at home. B explains to the police officers that the whole affair was just a “harmless prank” that the McBurger workers play on new employees—a hazing ritual. The muffled cry from the meat locker came from another employee, making sound effects.
In a common-law jurisdiction, A is charged with one count of arson.
Assume the prosecution can prove the above facts at A’s trial. Also assume that the prosecution can prove the prima facie elements of arson beyond a reasonable doubt.
QuestionIn a common-law jurisdiction, does A have a valid affirmative defense of duress? Explain, applying only the common law, but do not apply the Model Penal Code, and do not analyze any other issue that may be raised by the problem.
In a common-law jurisdiction, does A have a valid affirmative defense of duress? Explain, applying only the common law, but do not apply the Model Penal Code, and do not analyze any other issue that may be raised by the problem.