Thursday, November 21, 2013

United States v. Diaz case brief

United States v. Diaz case brief summary
864 F.2d 544 (7th Cir. 1988)

Defendant appealed the order from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois that entered his conviction for conspiracy to distribute cocaine. Defendant argued that the district court erred when it gave a conscious avoidance of knowledge instruction.

After a federal jury trial, defendant was convicted of conspiracy to distribute cocaine, possession and distribution of cocaine, and use of a firearm in relation to the commission of a drug trafficking crime. Defendant appealed and alleged that the district court erred when it gave a conscious avoidance of knowledge instruction, commonly referred to as the "ostrich" instruction. A conscious avoidance instruction was properly given only when the defendant claimed a lack of guilty knowledge and there were facts and evidence that supported an inference of deliberate ignorance.


  • The court found that the instruction confused the jurors. 
  • The danger in giving the instruction where there was evidence of direct knowledge but no evidence of avoidance of knowledge was that the jury could still convict a defendant that merely should have known about the criminal venture. 
  • That situation did not exist in the instant case. 
  • Moreover, in addition to the ostrich instruction, the jury was instructed properly that the government had to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant knowingly participated in the conspiracy. 
  • The judgment of the district court was affirmed.

Defendant's conviction for conspiracy to distribute cocaine was affirmed because the jury was properly instructed not to convict defendant for conspiracy based on mere presence at the scene of the crime.

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