United States v. Urena

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Law
  • Date Filed: 10-13-2011
  • Case #: No. 09-50285
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Gould for the Court; Circuit Judge Schroeder and Chief District Judge McCuskey
  • Full Text Opinion

It is not an abuse of discretion to deny a self-defense jury instruction to an inmate who attacks another inmate after being called a derogatory term. The elimination of "recency points" does not apply retroactively .

Prisoner Lenny Urena was convicted by a jury of assault with a deadly weapon for attacking a fellow prisoner. Urena appeals his conviction arguing that the court abused its discretion by not giving jury instructions based on a self-defense theory. Urena also argues that his Confrontation Clause rights were violated because the court did not allow him to cross-examine the victim’s treating physician about the causation of the resulting injuries or, alternatively, allowing him to designate the treating physician as an expert witness after trial had begun. Lastly, Urena argues that his sentence should be recalculated because it incorporated “recency points,” which have since been removed from the sentencing guidelines. The Ninth Circuit held that the district court did not error by refusing to give a self-defense jury instruction because Urena failed to show how being called a “bitch” would support a need to commit a “pre-emptive attack using deadly force.” The Court ruled that the district court has broad discretion to disallow designation of a witness as a medical expert once trial is underway and limiting cross-examination to the nature and severity of the victim’s injuries is not a Confrontation Clause violation. The Court also held that that Urena’s sentence is not unreasonable and that the elimination of “recency points” does not have a retroactive effect. AFFIRMED.

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