Essay Example on Proving Guilt: Establishing Motive in Legal Proceedings

Published: 2022-12-27
Essay Example on Proving Guilt: Establishing Motive in Legal Proceedings
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Criminal law Forensic science
Pages: 3
Wordcount: 574 words
5 min read

In legal proceedings, the motive is used to explain the reason why a person committed a crime (Kaufman, 2003). In some cases, the crime is not committed with a different intent from that of harming an individual or killing. The prosecution must establish that the defendant intended to commit the act. The purpose of the prosecution is not proving that the defendant had the motive of committing the crime. The purpose of the exercise is instead to prove that the defendant is guilty of the offense committed.

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In the "Reversal of Fortune" documentary the defendant used the insulin on his wife, so the prosecution argued that he did this intending to kill her (Kaufman, 2003). The prosecution had no business of establishing the motive of the offense. All they wanted to establish was that he was guilty of the offense of attempted murder. Insulin is used for the medical purpose which is to regulate the level of blood sugar in patients diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

The victim of the attempted murder had been diagnosed with hypoglycemia which is a condition caused by low blood sugar (Kaufman, 2003). This condition can be regulated using insulin, so there is a possibility that Sunny Von Bulow had injected insulin in excess. This was confirmed through a test that showed low blood sugar and high levels of insulin. This was a controversial issue because Sunny's husband might have injected her wife with excess insulin with an intention or accidentally done so when trying to regulate the levels of glucose in the bloodstream.

Motive refers to the motivating factor that makes a person to commit a crime (Kaufman, 2003). The motive is proved through a desire that makes a defendant to perform a criminal act. Understanding the motive that the culprit had helps in arguing the case and benefits the prosecution. Sometimes a defendant may be charged with a crime that he has committed but with the motive not intended. What this means is that a defendant may be accused of murder which he/she committed, but the motive for committing the criminal act was not to kill but rather alleviate pain. In the case of Sunny in the "Reversal of Fortune" documentary, it was not easy to establish the motive that Claus would have by attempting to kill his wife.

There was a likelihood that she injected overdose insulin in the bloodstream. During the second trial and the appeal, Von Bulow was assisted by Alan Dershowitz to argue that Sunny used drugs and was an alcohol abuser. Truman Capote testified that it was Sunny who taught him how to use drugs properly.

Negligence is a criminal legal issue presented in the documentary. Alexandra testified though unwillingly in favor of persecution by indicating that Von failed to act even when he saw that the condition of his wife was deteriorating. The witness indicated that he called a doctor when he realized that the condition had worsened. The other criminal legal issue presented in the documentary is actual because the court had the responsibility of proving that the cause of the coma was as a result of insulin overdose. Expert witnesses, on the other hand, testified in favor of Von by indicating that Sunny's commas were not as a result of insulin overdose.


Bros, W. (2014). Reversal of Fortune [Video]. Retrieved from

Kaufman, W. R. (2003). Motive, Intention, and Morality in Criminal Law. Criminal Justice Review, 28(2), 317-335.

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