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United States v. Lynch
United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
233 F.3d 1139 (2000)
Ian Lynch (defendant) found and removed a partially buried human skill while on a hunting trip. Lynch had been looking for caves to explore when he found the skull buried in the side of a hill, not an apparent cemetery or burial ground. In an interview with federal agents, Lynch indicated that he knew the skull was old, but he did not know that the skull might be an archaeological resource more than 100 years old as defined by the Archaeological Resources Protection Act (the act) or that the skull was in a burial ground. Notably, legislative history for the act indicated that Congress sought to punish careless and intentional destruction of archaeological sites, not the technical offenses of casual or unwitting violators like a boy scout or other curious visitors to public lands. After several experts were unable to determine the skull’s age, authorities performed an analysis using carbon dating, which showed the skill was at least 1,400 years old. The government (plaintiff) indicted Lynch under § 470ee(a) of the act. Lynch filed a motion to dismiss the indictment, arguing that the indictment lacked the scienter required by the act. The district court denied the motion, holding that removal of the skull was malum in se, or a wrong in itself, and that the only requirement to satisfy scienter under the act was that Lynch knew that he was excavating or removing a human skull from a grave. The district court advised Lynch that the government did not need to prove that Lynch knew the skull’s removal was illegal or that the skull was an archaeological resource. Consequently, Lynch entered a conditional guilty plea. However, pursuant to an agreement with the government, Lynch preserved the knowledge, or mens rea, issue for appeal. Lynch appealed to the court of appeals.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Goodwin, J.)
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