Michael Musacchio v. United States of America

Summarized by:

  • Court: U.S. Supreme Court Certiorari Granted
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Procedure
  • Date Filed: June 29, 2015
  • Case #: 14-1095
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Court Below: 590 F. App'x 359 (5th Cir. 2014)
  • Full Text Opinion

Whether the law-of-the-case doctrine requires the government to provide more evidence than the statute requires.

Petitioner was indicted under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act for conspiracy to access unauthorized computers, and exceeding authorization of protected computers. At trial, Respondent introduced evidence only for the former, but issued an uncontested jury instruction that listed the charges as conjunctive. Although 18 U.S.C. §1030 does not list the infractions conjunctively, and the district court was presented with evidence that Petitioner only committed conspiracy to access unauthorized computers, the jury found Petitioner guilty of both. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the district court’s conviction on the grounds that the faulty jury instruction did not become law-of-the-case, which would have required Respondents to prove both charges, because it was most likely a clerical error that was not consistently misstated. Additionally, the Fifth Circuit found that Petitioner waived his right to a statue of limitations defense because it was not raised at trial.

Petitioner argues that the uncontested jury instruction became the law-of-the-case under United States v. Guevara, 408 F.3d 252, 258 (5th Cir. 2005). Per Guevara, a jury instruction becomes the law-of-the-case if it is not contested by either party and places a greater burden on the government. Petitioner also argues that the faulty jury instruction changed the charges against him so that a statute of limitations defense was not waived and should be allowed review.

The Supreme Court granted certiorari to resolve the circuit split regarding both the law-of-the-case doctrine and the reviewability of statute of limitation waivers as they arise post trial.

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