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United States v. Serawop

United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
410 F.3d 656 (2005)


Facts

The United States government (plaintiff) prosecuted Redd Rock Serawop (defendant) for second-degree murder, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1111. The trial evidence established that Serawop cared for an infant and her three siblings while their mother was serving a 12-day jail sentence. The inconsolable infant cried constantly. Serawop called an ambulance when the infant developed trouble breathing. The infant soon died, and an autopsy showed multiple forceful blows to her head and other contusions, which rendered the infant unconscious and produced the symptoms that led to her death. Serawop admitted that he inflicted the fatal injuries, but insisted that he did so either accidentally or in the heat of passion aroused by the stress of caring for the inconsolable infant and her siblings. The judge instructed the jury on the elements of second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, and involuntary manslaughter. However, the judge failed to instruct the jury that both second-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter contain the element of either general intent to kill or inflict serious bodily harm, or depraved-heart recklessness. The jury acquitted Serawop of second-degree murder and found him guilty of voluntary manslaughter. Serawop appealed to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, where he contended that the judge's instruction was prejudicial error.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Ebel, J.)

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