United States v. Lonnie Anthony Jones (11th Cir. October 2018)

Firearm Offenses/ACCA – Second-degree murder in Florida constitutes a “violent felony” under the elements clause of the Armed Career Criminal Act.

Lonnie Jones pled guilty to federal drug and firearm offenses, including being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm under. Pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 924(e)(1) (the Armed Career Criminal Act), he sentenced to the 15-year mandatory minimum sentence based on his three prior convictions.

Jones challenged his sentence on appeal, arguing that his 1992 second-degree murder conviction in Florida was not a “violent felony” under the elements clause of the ACCA, which defines violent felonies as offenses that have “as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person of another.” An offense is categorically a “violent felony” if “the least culpable conduct criminalized by the statute” necessarily involves the use or threat of force.

The Florida statute in question defined second-degree murder as “the unlawful killing of a human being, when perpetrated by any act imminently dangerous to another and evincing a depraved mind regardless of human life, although without any premeditated design to effect the death of any particular individual.”

The Eleventh Circuit affirmed Jones’ sentence, holding that the second-degree murder in Florida was a “violent felony” under the ACCA. The Court cited its opinion earlier this year that causing someone’s death through indirect physical force, such as through poisoning them, is sufficient to constitute a “violent felony.” Hylor v. United States, 896 F.3d 1219.

Appeal from the Middle District of Florida

Opinion by Marcus, joined by Tjoflat and Newsom

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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