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UI LAW 8022 - United States v. Jewell

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Case BriefCrim Law: Mens Rea requirement1/28/15Identity of CaseUnited States v. Jewell, 532 F.2d 697 (9th Cir. 1976).Page 217 of the casebookSummary of Facts/Procedural HistoryAppellant/defendant entered the US driving an automobile in which 110 lbs of marijuana were stored in a secret carmpartment…appellant testified that he didn’t know the marijuana was present, but there was also substantial circumstantial evidence which indicated he should’ve known, and that he deliberately avoided positive knowledge of the presence of the contraband to avoid responsibility in the event of discovery. Statute: It shall be unlawful for any person knowingly or intentionally…to possess with intent to distribute…a controlled substance…Defendant requests jury instructions that the gov’t must prove positive knowledge of the presence of the controlled substance. These were denied, the jury received instructions that the gov’t must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant knowingly brought marijuana into the united states and knowingly possessed it…the gov’t can complete their burden of proof by proving beyond a reasonable doubt, that if the defendant was not actually aware that there was marijuana in the vehicle his ignorance was solely and entirely a result of his having made a conscious purpose to disregard the natureof that which was in the vehicle, with a conscious purpose to avoid learning the truth. Conviction on those grounds, appeals on the basis of the instructionsStatement of the IssueIs purposefully not knowing to avoid culpability an equal mens rea state of knowledge? (under this statute, at least)? That is to say, is it an appropriate substitute for actual positive knowledge? HoldingHeld, where the defendant acts with an awareness of the high probability of the existence of the fact in question, positive knowledge is not required and the defendant is equally culpable. ReasoningEnglish common law refers to this as wilfull blindness. There is a long history of common law decisions supporting the equal culpability. It boils down to “your defense is a fancy way of saying I knew but don’t hold me accountable.” Evaluation It is possible that a statute could require positive knowledge, but that would seem to be inconsistent with the purposes of this


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