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United States v. Trujillo

2010 WL 5476756 (2010)

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United States v. Trujillo

United States District Court for the District of New Mexico

2010 WL 5476756 (2010)

Facts

The United States government (plaintiff) prosecuted Trujillo (defendant) for second-degree murder, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1111. The government accepted Trujillo's plea of guilty to the lesser included offense of manslaughter, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1112. Trujillo requested a downward departure from the penalty stipulated by federal sentencing guidelines, because he had no criminal record and had been provoked by the victim, Brian Lester Sam. Taking Trujillo's account as true, Sam, who was drunk, picked a fight with Trujillo and poked him with what Trujillo wrongly assumed to be a knife. When Sam's remarks convinced Trujillo that Sam intended to take a gun from Trujillo's bedroom, Trujillo headed to the bedroom, retrieved the gun, and aimed it at Sam, who had followed him. Sam cursed, taunted, and moved menacingly toward Trujillo. Believing himself to be in danger, Trujillo stepped back and fired once, fatally wounding Sam. The government described Trujillo's account as establishing, at best, a case of imperfect self-defense. The government countered Trujillo's request for a reduced sentence by arguing that he had already been credited for Sam's provocation by being allowed to plead guilty to manslaughter instead of murder, and therefore a reduced sentence would credit Trujillo twice for the same behavior.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Browning, J.)

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