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United States v. Alexander

471 F.2d 923 (1972)

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United States v. Alexander

United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

471 F.2d 923 (1972)

Facts

Ellsworth Kramer and four other Marine lieutenants (lieutenants) entered a local hamburger shop. Gordon Alexander and Benjamin Murdock (defendant) were already in the shop. Kramer and Alexander engaged in a staring match that escalated into Kramer referring to Alexander as a “nigger,” “black bastard,” and “dirty nigger bastard.” Alexander and Murdock both pulled revolvers on the lieutenants. Shots were fired, resulting in the deaths of two of the lieutenants. Murdock was charged with second-degree murder and assault. Murdock’s trial was bifurcated. During the insanity portion of his trial, Murdock presented a psychiatrist who testified about Murdock’s social background and detailed Murdock’s psychopathic traits and emotional difficulties that were linked to his feelings of racial oppression. The psychiatrist opined that when Murdock was denigrated with racially charged language, he likely felt an irresistible urge to lash out at those he viewed as his oppressors. The district court instructed the jury on how the evidence could be used to consider whether or not Murdock suffered from a mental disease or defect. Through a special instruction, the district court cautioned the jury to only consider this evidence to determine whether Murdock had a mental condition that would affect the level of his criminal responsibility. Murdock was convicted. Murdock appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (McGowan, J.)

Dissent (Bazelon, C.J.)

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