United States v. Begay (9th Cir. May 2022), EN BANC

The Federal Docket

May 16, 2022

Randly Begay was convicted of second-degree murder and discharging a firearm during a crime of violence. Among other things, he argued on appeal that the second-degree murder charge was not a “crime of violence” under 924(c) since it does not require an intentional use of force. A divided panel held that second-degree murder is not a “crime of violence” since it can be committed recklessly.

Sitting en banc, the Ninth Circuit vacated the panel opinion. The Court concluded that second-degree murder under 18 USC 1111(a) and 1153 is a “crime of violence” that meets the requisite mens rea because, in contrast to mere recklessness, a conviction for second degree murder must be accomplished with “malice aforethought,” which includes acting “deliberately or recklessly with extreme disregard for human life.” The court otherwise emphasized that the recklessness standard here is distinct from other recklessness standards and that generally “anything less than intentional conduct does not qualify as a crime of violence.”

Appeal from District of Arizona
Opinion by Christen
Concurrence by Murguia
Dissent by Wardlaw
Dissent by Ikuta

Click here to read the opinion.

Tom Church - Tom is a trial and appellate lawyer focusing on criminal defense and civil trials. Tom is the author of "The Federal Docket" and is a contributor to Mercer Law Review's Annual Survey in the areas of federal sentencing guidelines and criminal law. Tom graduated with honors from the University of Georgia Law School where he served as a research assistant to the faculty in the areas of constitutional law and civil rights litigation. Read Tom's reviews on AVVO. Follow Tom on Linkedin.

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