Murder Conviction of Navajo Man Reinstated by Ninth Circuit En Banc Panel

Here is the opinion in United States v. Begay (8-3).

The panel decision that vacated a first-degree murder conviction for insufficiency of evidence of premeditation is here.

The three judges that dissented from the reversal, under Judge Reinhardt’s byline, write:

This is a case in which there is no conflict among circuits, no intra-circuit conflict, and no issue of national importance.The court went en banc not over any legal issue, but only to decide whether a few specific facts identified in the majority opinion were sufficient to warrant a finding of premeditation.A similar combination of facts is not likely to occur again in a future case, especially as there are few federal murder cases—this one happened on an Indian reservation—and even fewer in which the question whether the murder was first- or second-degree hinges exclusively on whether there is sufficient circumstantial evidence to prove premeditation. Nevertheless, a majority of this court decided that it was worthy of en banc review when the three-judge panel found that the prosecution had failed to prove murder in the first as opposed to  second degree. Because I disagree with the majority that the minimal facts that it sets forth in its opinion are sufficient to establish premeditation beyond a reasonable doubt, whatever reasonable inferences may be drawn, I dissent.

Ninth Circuit Affirms SORNA Conviction of Two Indian Men

Here is the opinion in U.S. v. Begay.

An excerpt:

Defendants argue that SORNA did not require them toupdate their registration with the State of Arizona while they were residing in the Navajo Nation, and that they could notupdate their registration with the Navajo Nation because it had not yet established a sex offender registry. Based on thesepremises, they invoke SORNA’s affirmative defense, which applies when “uncontrollable circumstances prevent[ ] theindividual from complying” with SORNA. 18 U.S.C.§ 2250(b)(1). Alternatively, they argue that if SORNA did require them to update their registration with Arizona, SORNA violates the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment and the Ex Post Facto Clause.
We hold that SORNA required Defendants to update theirregistration with Arizona, and because nothing prevented them from doing so, no “uncontrollable circumstances prevented [them] from complying” with SORNA. Moreover, wehold that this application of SORNA violates neither the Due Process Clause nor the Ex Post Facto Clause. Thus, we affirmthe district court’s denial of Defendants’ motions to dismiss their indictments.