drug trafficking

Rosemond v. United States

Issues: 

In order to convict a defendant of aiding and abetting the use of a firearm in relation to a crime of violence or a drug-trafficking crime, does the government need to prove that the defendant intentionally facilitated or encouraged the use of the firearm, or merely that the defendant knew that the principal used a firearm during the crime?

On August 26, 2007, Justus Rosemond and two acquaintances drove to a local park where they planned to sell a pound of marijuana to Ricardo Gonzales and Coby Painter. The deal went awry, and Gonzales and Painter fled with the marijuana without paying. As Rosemond and his cohorts chased after Gonzales and Painter, someone from Rosemond’s car fired a gun at Gonzales. Rosemond was charged with aiding and abetting the use of a firearm in relation to a drug-trafficking crime. The issue before the Court is what level of intent the government must prove. Rosemond argues that he is liable as an accomplice only if he intentionally facilitated or encouraged the use of the firearm. The United States maintains, and the Tenth Circuit ruled, that his knowledge that a cohort used a firearm during the crime is enough to impose accomplice liability. This case raises important concerns regarding the scope of prosecutorial discretion under § 924(c), as well as the burden of proof to establish accomplice liability for aggravating offenses.

Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties: 

Whether the offense of aiding and abetting the use of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence or drug-trafficking crime, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 924(c)(1)(A) and 2, requires proof of (i) intentional facilitation or encouragement of the use of the firearm, as held by the First, Second, Third, Fifth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, and Eleventh Circuits, or (ii) simple knowledge that the principal used a firearm during a crime of violence or drug-trafficking crime in which the defendant also participated, as held by the Sixth, Tenth, and District of Columbia Circuits.  

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Facts

This case revolves around a drug deal gone awry. On August 26, 2007, Vashti Perez arranged to meet and sell a pound of marijuana to Ricardo Gonzales and Coby Painter. See United States v. Rosemond, 695 F.3d 1151, 1152 (10th Cir. 2012). The marijuana belonged to Ronald Joseph and Justus Rosemond, the defendant and Petitioner in this case.

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Burrage v. United States

Issues: 

Can a defendant who sells drugs to someone who dies of an overdose be held criminally liable for that person’s death if the drug contributed to the victim’s death but was not the sole cause?

On April 14, 2010, Marcus Burrage sold heroin to Joshua Banka, who used the heroin and a cocktail of other drugs, and was found dead the next day. Medical and toxicology reports indicated that the heroin contributed to Banka’s death, but neither report said that Banka would have lived if he had not taken the heroin. Burrage was convicted of distribution of heroin causing death under 21 U.S.C. § 841, andhe appealed arguing that the jury instructions were erroneous. In particular, Burrage challenged the causation instruction under § 841, arguing that the statute required the government to prove that the heroin was the proximate cause of death, and not just a contributing factor. The district court concluded, and the court of appeals affirmed, that the “contributed to” instructions were consistent with Eighth Circuit precedent. The Supreme Court will now clarify the causation standard for the federal crime of distribution of drugs causing death. This standard will determine when a person who distributes drugs can be held criminally responsible for the death of the drug user, and what the government must prove in such cases. 

Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties: 
  1. Whether a person can be convicted for distribution of heroin causing death utilizing jury instructions, which allow a conviction when the heroin that was distributed "contributed to," death by "mixed drug intoxication," but was not the sole cause of death of person. 
  2. Whether the crime of distribution of drugs causing death under 21 U.S.C. § 841 is a strict liability crime, without a foreseeability or proximate cause requirement. 

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Facts

On November 17, 2009, Breanna Brown, a confidential informant cooperating with the Central Iowa Drug Task Force, conducted a controlled buy of heroin from suspected drug dealer “Lil C.” See United States v. Burrage, 687 F.3d 1015, 1018 (8th Cir. 2012). Various officers later identified Lil C as Petitioner Marcus Burrage, but at trial Burrage denied ever selling drugs to Brown.

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