Pope v. States
284 Md. 309, 396 A.2d 1054 (1979)

  • Norris was crazy. Pope took Norris and her child in because they had nowhere else to go.
  • Norris went into a frenzy and beat the child in front of Pope. Pope did nothing to protect the child. The child died.
  • Pope was arrested and charged with child abuse and misprison of felony.
    • Misprison of felony is and old common law term for when a person fails to report a crime, or helps to conceal it..
  • The Trial Court found Pope guilty on both counts. She appealed.
  • The Appellate Court reversed.
    • The Appellate Court looked to Maryland State law, and found that in order to be guilty of child abuse, a person must be responsible for the child in some way. Pope was not the parent, nor did she have any legal obligations to the child, so she couldn’t be guilty under Maryland’s child abuse Statute.
      • “She may not be punished as a felon under our system of justice for failing to fulfill a moral obligation and she as under no legal obligation.”
    • The Court found misprison of felony is not a Statutory crime in Maryland, it is only a common law crime, and therefore is not a chargeable offense under modern criminal law.
      • Modern criminal law does not prosecute common law offenses.
  • Btw, Norris was judged to be insane and was therefore not criminal responsible for her actions.