Sunday, December 22, 2013

United States v. Cunningham case brief

United States v. Cunningham case brief summary
103 F.3d 553 (7th Cir. 1996)


CASE SYNOPSIS
The United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana held that replacement of painkiller with saline solution in a syringe constituted tampering with a consumer product with reckless disregard for the risk that another person would be placed in danger of death or bodily injury, and thus sentenced defendant for violation of 18 U.S.C.S. § 1365(a). Defendant appealed.

CASE FACTS
Defendant was charged with stealing a painkiller from a hospital where she was one of five nurses who had access to the drug, by removing the drug from syringes and replacing it with saline solution. At her trial for tampering with a consumer product with reckless disregard for the risk that another person would be placed in danger of death or bodily injury in violation of 18 U.S.C.S. § 1365(a), the district court admitted evidence that at another hospital defendant's license had been suspended due to theft of the same painkiller.

DISCUSSION

  • Defendant was convicted, and on appeal, the court affirmed. 
  • Defendant argued that withholding pain medication did not place anyone in danger of bodily injury. 
  • The court noted that under the statute, "bodily injury" included "physical pain," and held that the statute was satisfied because defendant's conduct perpetuated patients' pain. 
  • The court also held that the district court properly admitted the prior acts evidence under Fed. R. Evid. 404(b), because the evidence of her addiction was admissible to show motive to tamper with the syringes. 
  • Finally, the fact that she was the only person with both opportunity and motive supported the verdict.
CONCLUSION
The court affirmed the judgment of the district court.

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