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United States v. Eric B.

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
86 F.3d 869 (1996)


Facts

The United States government (plaintiff) charged Eric B. (defendant), a twelve-year-old boy, with committing an act of delinquency, namely second-degree murder, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1111. The trial evidence established that a friend gave Eric a gun in school. Eric knew the gun was loaded with two bullets. After school, Eric pointed the gun at a schoolmate, but then turned away and fired one shot at a rock. Eric deftly removed the remaining bullet and pocketed it. Several times that afternoon, Eric pointed the unloaded gun at other schoolmates and pulled the trigger. Eric reloaded the gun with the remaining bullet and offered it to a girl, suggesting that she use it to shoot her friend, but she refused the offer. Next, Eric pointed the loaded gun at an 11-year-old boy and pulled the trigger, but the gun did not fire. Finally, Eric aimed the gun at Nathan Crank, a seven-year-old boy. Eric squeezed the trigger and the gun went off, shooting Nathan in the head and killing him. The trial judge found Eric not guilty of murder, but guilty of involuntary manslaughter, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1112. Eric's lawyer appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, contending that the government failed to prove that Eric knew the gun was loaded when he shot Nathan, that due to Eric's age and intelligence level he did not fully understand the threat to others that his actions created, and that consequently the fatal shooting was an accident and not manslaughter.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Real, J.)

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