Lynndie England’s guilty plea for a charge of conspiracy has been thrown out because her alleged co-conspirator said that he thought their actions were legal.
He intended to perform an act which he believed was not criminal, therefore he couldn’t have been conspiring, therefore England couldn’t have been conspiring with herself.
This runs contrary to my rather limited understanding of the law. Can one person’s guilt be ruled out because of the mistaken opinion of one’s fellow defendant? If so, ignorance of the law is no defense unless your partner is the ignorant one.
It seems to me that England intended to do something which she has at some point believed to be illegal, and she intended to cooperate with someone else in order to accomplish it. If she believed it was illegal at the time she conspired to do it, that would be enough, in my amateur opinion, to make her guilty of conspiracy.
I know that military justice does not necessarily follow the same rules and precedents of civilian criminal law, but if conspiracy requires that at least one other person intends to do something they believe is a crime, then perhaps other offenses should be held to the same standard.
Can a pedophile be found guilty of trying to get a teenager to meet for sex if there was never a teenager involved? What if there was actually a teenager involved, but the teen’s intent was something other than sex — say, conspiring with a friend to rob the pedophile’s house while the liaison was supposed to be happening?
Is anyone else’s sense of legal principles at odds with the idea that a person can be found not guilty of doing something that would ordinarily be criminal, solely because someone else didn’t know it was illegal?