Sunday, November 17, 2013

United States v. Burrows case brief

United States v. Burrows case brief summary
36 F.3d 875 (1994)

Defendant challenged the order of the United States District Court for the Central District of California after his conviction for drug trafficking. Defendant claimed error in the jury instructions, in the court's failure to grant a downward departure and a downward adjustment, it's refusal to entertain a collateral attack on prior convictions, and in the government's failure to recommend a downward departure based on substantial assistance.

Defendant appealed from his conviction for drug trafficking crimes, arguing that two of the district court's jury instructions were erroneous. Defendant also attacked four aspects of the sentence imposed by the district court.


  • The court affirmed the conviction and remanded the case for resentencing. 
  • The court found that the district court erred by giving an addict instruction but that the prejudice resulting from the error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. 
  • The court held that the district court's retroactive application of U.S. Sentencing Guidelines Manual § 5H1.12 violated the ex post facto clause of the U.S. Constitution. 
  • The court ruled that defendant's post-trial position was incompatible with acceptance of responsibility, and that the government's reasons for declining to recommend a departure were related to legitimate law enforcement purposes. 
  • The court concluded that defendant had no right conferred by the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines Manual to attack his prior convictions in his sentencing proceeding and no constitutional right to attack any prior convictions save those which were obtained in violation of his right to appointed counsel.

The court affirmed defendant's convictions. The court remanded the case to the district court so that the court could consider whether a downward departure based on youthful lack of guidance was warranted.

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