North Dakota Law

Updates from the University of North Dakota School of Law.

UND Law Professor Steve Morrison explains lack of motive, intent, regarding Chad Isaak verdict

(KX NEWS) — In the days and weeks following the RJR murders, considered to be unprecedented for North Dakota, there’s been a lot of discussion and interest regarding what would have motivated Chad Issak to commit these heinous crimes. Even with Friday’s conviction, we still don’t know.

With that in mind, the question now being asked is how could Isaak be convicted of murder if there was no known motive. KX News spoke with Steven Morrison, a law professor at the University of North Dakota. He said what a jury has to decide is if every element of the crime was proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

“Almost always, one element is the ‘mens rea’ or the state of mind,” Steven Morrison said. “And the ‘mens rea’ can be intent, recklessness, negligence, purpose, knowing, you know, what’s in the defendant’s mind.
Motive is not a state of mind in terms of intent of recklessness. Motive is a reason you might do something and motive is not an element of first-degree murder, so the prosecution doesn’t have to prove it,” Morrison said. “The prosecution does have to prove intent. I killed this person and I wanted to.”

Morrison said it appears that a reasonable jury concluded that Isaak was in fact guilty.

Read the original KX News story