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United States v. García-Ortiz

United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
528 F.3d 74 (2008)


Facts

The United States government (plaintiff) prosecuted José A. García-Ortiz (Garcia) (defendant) for first-degree murder, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1111. The trial evidence established that Reinaldo Rolon Rivera (Rolon) and another man attacked and robbed a grocery store manager and a security guard who were on their way to deposit the store's receipts at a bank. The guard was wounded in the course of trading gunfire with the robbers. Rolon was killed and the other robber was wounded. Eyewitness testimony, DNA testing, and other forensic evidence all conclusively identified García as the other robber. The trial judge instructed the jury that, to prove García's guilt by virtue of the felony-murder rule, the government needed only to show that García committed the underlying felony of "interference with commerce by robbery" and that a person, in this case García's accomplice, was killed as a result of that felony. The jury convicted García and he appealed to the First Circuit Court of Appeals. The court briefly considered and rejected García's contention that interference with commerce by robbery was not one of the crimes that § 1111(a) lists as one to which the felony-murder rule applies. The court ruled that the trial judge's instruction related to "robbery," which is enumerated in § 1111 and which clearly refers to 18 U.S.C. § 1951, which deals only with robbery affecting interstate commerce.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Torruella, J.)

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