United States v. Jewell – (Knowledge)
- United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit
- A man asked Jewell to drive a car into the United States into California from Mexico.
- The man offered to pay Jewell.
- There were illegal drugs hidden inside a hidden compartment inside of the car.
- Jewell knew that the vehicle had a hidden compartment, but deliberately did not check to see if there was anything inside of the compartment.
- Jewell suspected that there were illegal drugs in the compartment, but did nothing to confirm the hunch.
- Jewell agreed and drove across the border.
- Jewell was arrested at the border by Federal Agents when they discovered illegal drugs in the compartment of the vehicle.
- Jewell was indicted by a Federal Grand Jury for “knowingly importing illegal drugs into the United States”.
- Jewell entered a “Not Guilty” Plea.
- Jewell elected for a Jury Trial.
- Jewell argued that he did not know there were illegal drugs in the secret compartment.
- The Prosecutor asked the Judge to give the Jury a “Deliberate Ignorance Instruction” based on Jewell knowing there was a secret compartment, Jewell having a suspicion that there were drugs in the secret compartment, and Jewell purposefully not checking the compartment and not asking any questions.
- The Judge agreed and gave the Deliberate Ignorance Instruction that the mens rea element of knowledge is fulfilled if the Defendant lacked positive knowledge that there were illegal drugs in the car and then had a conscious purpose of not learning the truth.
- The Jury Convicted Jewell.
- Jewell appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.
Issue: In a Federal Drug Prosecution, is a “Deliberate Ignorance” Instruction proper?
Conclusion: Judge Browning Opining for the Majority: Yes, the “Deliberate Ignorance” Instruction is proper if the Defendant did in fact know that there was a high probability that there were illegal drugs in the hidden compartment and concurrently had a conscious purpose to avoid learning the truth. AFFIRMED
Rule: Deliberate Ignorance and Positive Knowledge are deemed to be equally culpable mental states.
Rule Proof: It is noted that the Courts, US and UK Legal Commentators, and the MPC all equate deliberate ignorance with positive knowledge and make both mental states equally culpable.
Application to these Facts: Jewell by remaining deliberately ignorant of whether or not there were illegal drugs in a known hidden compartment in the vehicle that he was paid in a highly suspect context to drive across the US/Mexico Border into California had the equivalent culpable mental state as if he had positive knowledge of the drugs which upon investigation by Federal Agents turned out to be inside of the hidden compartment.
Unargued Point brought up by 9th Circuit: 9th Circuit noted that the District Court had:
- Failed to instruct the Jury that it had to find Jewell to have had an awareness of a high probability of there being illegal drugs in the hidden compartment.
- Failed to instruct the Jury that they could only find deliberate ignorance if Jewel did not believe there were drugs in the car.
Conclusion: The above 2 failures in Jury Instruction by the District did not amount to reversible error because Jewell did not object on those grounds at trial.
Application and Influence in Law System: A District Court should specifically instruct the Jury that it must find a Defendant to be aware of a high probability that they possess drugs in order to find deliberate ignorance. A Jury should not find deliberate ignorance if a Defendant did not believe they possessed drugs.
Lasting Extracted Influence in the Law System of this Case: The 9th Circuit en banc decision has become the standard for Deliberate Ignorance Instructions coining the term “Jewell Instructions”. Deliberate Ignorance has become a substitute for Mens Rea because of the dicta of this Majority Opinion.
ANTHONY M. KENNEDY, Circuit Judge, with whom ELY, HUFSTEDLER and WALLACE, Circuit Judges, join (dissenting): Deliberate Ignorance Instruction is in conflict with the Prosecution’s Burden to Prove Mens Rea of Knowledge of Illegal Drug Possession. He further opined that even if a Deliberate Ignorance Instruction was allowable, this specific Deliberate Ignorance Opinion was deficient. Judge Kennedy viewed Jewell to have sufficiently objected to the deficiencies of Failure 1, and Failure 2 during Trial.
Respectful Dissent of Judge Kenedy is often passive, but the logic can be leaned on with respect to it pointing out the limit in scope of willful blindness and it’s physical nature.