Monday, April 29, 2013

United States v. Corrow case brief

United States v. Corrow case brief
119 F.3d 796

CASE SYNOPSIS: Defendant appealed his conviction pursuant to 25 U.S.C.S. § 3001-3013 and 16 U.S.C.S. §§ 701-712, which was entered by the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico, contending that the statutes were unconstitutional because they were vague and ambiguous.

FACTS: Defendant, an aficionado of Navajo culture and religion, purchased some Navajo artifacts and attempted to resell them. Subsequently, defendant was convicted of trafficking in Native American cultural items in violation of 18 U.S.C.S. § 1170, 25 U.S.C.S. §§ 3001(3)(D), 3002(c), and 18 U.S.C.S. § 2, and of selling golden eagle, great horned owl, and buteoine hawk feathers in violation of 16 U.S.C.S. §§ 703, 707(b)(2), and 18 U.S.C.S. § 2. Defendant appealed the convictions, arguing that the statutes were vague and ambiguous, and thus unconstitutional.

The court concluded that defendant had fair notice, if not of the precise words of the act, then of their meaning that Native American objects having ongoing historical, traditional, or cultural importance central to the Native American group rather than property owned by an individual Native American could not be bought and sold absent criminal consequences.

The court found that due process did not require that citizens be provided actual notice of all criminal rules and their meanings. The court further held that defendant purchased protected bird feathers whether he did so knowingly or not. Therefore, the convictions were affirmed.

CONCLUSION: The court affirmed defendant's convictions for trafficking in protected Native American cultural items and possession of protected feathers. The criminal trafficking statute was not unconstitutional, and the evidence was sufficient to permit a rational jury to find that defendant possessed protected bird feathers whether he did so knowingly or not.

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