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89 U. Pa. L. Rev. 581 (1940-1941)
Parties to Crime

handle is hein.journals/pnlr89 and id is 599 raw text is: March, i941

In the field of felony the common law divided guilty parties into
principals and accessories.1 According to the ancient analysis only the
actual perpetrator of the felonious deed was a principal. Other guilty
parties were called accessories, and to distinguish among these with
reference to time and place they were divided into three classes: (I)
accessories before the fact, (2) accessories at the fact,2 and (3) acces-
sories after the fact. At a relatively early time the party who was
originally considered an accessory at the fact, ceased to be classed in the
accessorial group and was labeled a principal. To distinguish him from
the actual perpetrator of the crime he was called a principal in the
second degree.3 Thereafter, in felony cases there were two kinds of
principals, first degree and second degree, and two kinds of accessories,
before the fact and after the fact. As applied to homicide cases, the
common law of parties was summarized in this form by the Supreme
Court of North Carolina:
The parties to a homicide are: (I) principals in the first
degree, being those whose unlawful acts or omissions cause the
death of the victim, without the intervention of any responsible
agent; (2) principals in the second degree, being those who are
actually or constructively present at the scene of the crime, aiding
and abetting therein, but not directly causing the death; (3) acces-
sories before the fact, being those who have conspired with the
actual perpetrator to commit the homicide, or some other unlawful
act that would naturally result in a homicide, or who have pro-
cured, instigated, encouraged, or advised him to commit it, but
who were neither actually nor constructively present when it was
committed; and (4) accessories after the fact, being those who,
t-A.B., I9IO, University of Kansas; J.D., 1912, Stanford University; S.J.D.,
191i6, Harvard University; Professor of Law, State University of Iowa; author, Iowa
Criminal Justice (1932), Cases on Criminal Procedure (3d ed. 1929); member, Iowa
and California State Bars, The American Bar Association, The American Law Insti-
tue; contributor to various legal periodicals.
i. Etymologically the noun, or substantive, is primarily accessary and the adjec-
tive accessory; but present usage favors accessory for both. WEBSTER'S NEW INT.
DIcTIONARY (1934).
(1883) 230; Matters of the Crown Happening at Salop, i Plo. 97, 99 n., 75 Eng. Rep.
R. 152, 157 (553); United States v. Hartwell, 26 Fed. Cas. 196, No. 15,318 (C. C.
Mass. 1869) ; State v. Scott, 80 Conn. 317, 323, 68 Atl. 258 (1907). Sometimes by
statute, the phrase accessory during the fact is used to include the accessory before
the fact and the ancient accessory at the fact, with the provision that he shall be tried
and punished as a principal. See 2 CoLo. ANN. STAT. (Courtright's Mills, 1930) § 1749.
3. Ibid.

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