The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that a man convicted of second degree murder did not necessarily commit a “crime of violence.” As a result, while the court affirmed the man’s conviction for murder, it reversed a second conviction and an additional sentence for discharging a firearm during a crime of violence.
Back in 2013, the defendant shot an acquaintance in the head with a handgun. The shooting took place within the Navaho Nation Indian Reservation in Tuba City, Arizona. Since at least one of the participants was a Native American, the case was heard in federal court.
The defendant and the victim apparently spent some time that day drinking and smoking meth, when the subject turned to the issue of whether the defendant’s girlfriend was cheating on him with the victim. One thing led to another, and the defendant shot the victim in the head, killing him. The defendant was arrested for second degree murder (18 U.S.C. § 1111) and for discharging a firearm during a crime of violence. He was convicted of both.
During sentencing, the judge imposed, in addition to a prison term for second degree murder, additional prison time and a requirement that the defendant make restitution of over $23.000. The additional prison time, and the restitution order, were based upon another federal law (18 U.S.C. § 924(c), which deals with discharging a firearm during a crime of violence.
The defendant claimed on appeal that his conviction for murder was not a crime of violence. As strange as it may seem to many, the court agreed, and reversed the second conviction and the accompanying sentence (additional. prison time and restitution).
It may appear to defy common sense to claim that murder is not a crime of violence, but we caution our readers that the use of common sense in legal interpretation often leads to confusion and erroneous conclusions. What the court said was that second degree murder is not always a crime of violence because it can be supported not only by intentional acts, but also by reckless acts. The court ruled that this places this case outside the purview of 18 U.S.C. § 924.
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