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United States v. Pineda-Doval

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
614 F.3d 1019 (2010)


The United States government (plaintiff) charged Adan Pineda-Doval (defendant) with 10 counts of smuggling illegal aliens, resulting in death, thereby violating the felony-murder provisions of 8 U.S.C. § 1324. The trial evidence established that Pineda-Doval crossed into the United States in a Chevrolet Suburban overcrowded with 10 illegal aliens and equipped with no passenger seatbelts. A Border Patrol officer spotted Pineda-Doval and gave chase. Pineda-Doval turned the Suburban around and raced back toward Mexico. The officer radioed for help, and another officer laid a spike strip across Pineda-Doval's escape route to puncture and deflate the Suburban's tires and force it to halt. Pineda-Doval had encountered such devices on two previous smuggling expeditions. Pineda-Doval saw the strip and immediately warned his passengers to say their prayers. He deliberately and sharply swerved to avoid the strip, but his rear tire hit a spike and blew out. The Suburban swayed and flipped over twice, ejecting and killing all the passengers. The judge instructed the jury that, to convict Pineda-Doval, they had to find that he exposed his passengers to at least one life-threatening condition that was a cause of their deaths. The jury convicted Pineda-Doval. On appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, he contended that the judge's instruction erroneously failed to add that his smuggling must have been the proximate cause of the deaths.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Fletcher, J.)

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