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United States v. Houser

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
130 F.3d 867 (1997)


Facts

The United States government (plaintiff) prosecuted Donald Leonard Houser (defendant) for second-degree murder, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1111, and for use of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c). The trial evidence established that Houser and Nick Parker quarreled in a bar where Houser had been drinking heavily for five hours. The subject of the quarrel was Angela Rae LaSarte, with whom Parker had been sitting, and who had dated Houser from time to time. Chris Biles separated the two men. Houser then quarreled with Biles, and the fight spilled outside. Parker, LaSarte, and several others went outside to watch the fight. When the fight subsided, most spectators went back inside, but LaSarte and Houser remained outside. Houser went to the cab of his truck, took a gun, and shot and killed LaSarte. Houser testified that he took out the gun only to ward off the fight spectators, did not know that the gun was loaded or that the safety was off, and accidentally fired the gun when LaSarte tried to wrest it from his hands. The trial judge instructed the jury that they could convict Houser of second-degree murder if they found that Houser killed LaSarte either deliberately and intentionally, or recklessly with extreme disregard for human life. The jury convicted Houser and, on appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, he contended that the common-law extreme disregard standard required proof that Houser endangered the public at large rather than the victim alone.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Canby, J.)

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