Michele Materni

Michele Materni

Michele Materni

S.J.D. Candidate

LL.M. Advisor

Teaching Fellow (FAS)

mmaterni at sjd.law.harvard.edu



"Playing with Fire: Harm, Prediction and Preemption in the Criminal Law"

In the mid-1800s, under the influence and push of Cesare Beccaria's On Crimes and Punishments, the "classical school" of criminal law has laid the foundations of a liberal criminal law that aimed at punishing facts, not thoughts or status, and that focused on objective elements as the basis of liability. The core of the classical model is constituted by the three following elements: an actus reus, accompanied by a mens rea, which causes a forbidden result (whether the result is a normative event or a naturalistic event).

The classical model faces three major challenges — the question of the relevance of resulting harm, also known as the issue of "moral luck," which is brought on by moral philosophy; and the issues of prediction and preemption, which are brought on by the developments of modernity, and which feature problems ranging from environmental crimes to economic crimes to sex crimes to large-scale terrorism.

In this project, I want to respond to those challenges — should we punish someone more severely when some harm occurs as a result of their conduct? Can prediction be a sufficient basis for the imposition of liability? What are the limits (i.e., how far can we go) of preemption through the imposition of criminal punishment?

For each question, the answer will be sought within the framework of a criminal law whose characteristics make it suitable for a liberal democracy


Fields of Research and Supervisors

  • Criminal Law with Professor Alan M. Dershowitz, Harvard Law School, Overall Faculty Supervisor
  • Constitutional Law with Professor Richard D. Parker, Harvard Law School
  • Jurisprudence with Professor Lewis D. Sargentich, Harvard Law School

Additional Research Interests

  • The Role and Scope of Criminal Law in a Liberal Democracy
  • Criminal Law and the Constitution
  • Constitutional Interpretation
  • First Amendment
  • Law and Morality
  • Countermajoritarian Mechanisms
  • Death Penalty
  • Civil Rights and Liberties
  • Comparative Criminal Law and Procedure
  • White Collar Crime
  • Similarities and Differences between Common Law and Civil Law


  • Harvard Law School, S.J.D. Candidate, 2011 - Present
  • Harvard Law School, LL.M., 2011
  • UCSC Milano – Faculty of Law, Italy, Laurea Magistrale in Giurisprudenza, 2008
  • UCSC Milano – Faculty of Law, Italy, Laurea Triennale in Giurisprudenza, 2006

Academic Appointments and Fellowships

  • Harvard Law School, 2011 – Present, Graduate Program Fellow, LL.M. Advisor
  • Harvard University, FAS, 2011 – Present, Teaching Fellow
  • Federico Stella Research Center on Criminal Justice and Policy, 2008 – Present, Researcher
  • UCSC Milano – Faculty of Economics, 2009-2011, Teaching Assistant of Business Criminal Law

Representative Publications

  • Rebooting the Discourse on Causation in Criminal Law: A Pragmatic (and Imperfect) Approach, 50 Criminal Law Bulletin, n. 6 (forthcoming, 2014) (peer-reviewed)
  • Criminal Punishment and the Pursuit of Justice, 2 Br. J. Am. Leg. Studies (2013) (peer-reviewed)


Last Updated: September 13, 2013

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