- Court: U.S. Supreme Court Certiorari Granted
- Area(s) of Law: Criminal Law
- Date Filed: May 28, 2013
- Case #: 12-895
- Judge(s)/Court Below: Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, 695 F.3d 1151 (2012).
- Full Text Opinion
Petitioner and his cohort arranged to sell one pound of marijuana to a buyer. Instead of paying for the marijuana, however, the buyer grabbed the marijuana, and ran off. Either Petitioner or his cohort fired a gun in the direction of the fleeing buyer. Petitioner was charged with various crimes, including use of a firearm during a federal drug trafficking offense. At trial, the government argued that Petitioner either acted as the principal (by discharging the firearm), or that Petitioner aided and abetted in his cohort's discharge of the firearm. The jury found Petitioner guilty, but did not indicate under which theory.
Petitioner appealed to the Tenth Circuit, challenging the district court’s instruction to the jury that Petitioner could be convicted of aiding and abetting if he (1) “knew his cohort used a firearm in the drug trafficking crime” and, (2) “knowingly and actively participated in the drug trafficking crime." Petitioner argued that other circuits require an aider and abettor actually “facilitate or encourage the use of the firearm.” The court observed that the contested jury instruction was consistent with Tenth Circuit precedent and affirmed the conviction.
Petitioner appealed and the Supreme Court granted certiorari to determine whether a the crime of aiding and abetting during a federal drug trafficking offense requires proof of the defendant's facilitation or encouragement of the principal, or simple knowledge that the principal used the firearm during a crime in which the defendant participated. Petitioner asks the Court to resolve the split among the circuits, and argues that a conviction of aiding and abetting requires a showing that a defendant facilitated and encouraged a cohort's use of a firearm, rather than a showing of simple knowledge that the firearm was used.