United States v. McClain

545 F.2d 988 (1977)

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United States v. McClain

United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
545 F.2d 988 (1977)

Facts

A group of artifact dealers (the dealers) (defendants) were charged with violating the National Stolen Property Act, which prohibited the transportation of stolen property, after they attempted to sell pre-Colombian artifacts exported from Mexico. At trial, an expert in Mexican law testified that Mexico had declared ownership over all pre-Colombian artifacts uncovered in the country since 1897. The expert explained that an individual had to receive an export permit to export such artifacts out of Mexico, and that the dealers did not have such a permit. The trial judge instructed the jury according to the expert’s testimony, explaining that Mexico had declared ownership over pre-Columbian artifacts since 1897. However, further examination of relevant Mexican law later revealed that Mexico did not declare ownership over all pre-Colombian artifacts until 1972. The jury found the dealers guilty of transporting stolen property in violation of the National Stolen Property Act. The dealers appealed, arguing that the National Stolen Property Act did not apply to the exportation of artifacts declared to be owned by a foreign nation.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Wisdom, J.)

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