Tags: Criminal law, Knowledge, Mens rea
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The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reviewed a case involving Charles Demore Jewell who appealed a conviction for possession of a controlled substance. The court clarified that the accused must have knowledge of the nature of the act and the intent to manufacture, distribute, or dispense. The appellant's interpretation of "knowingly" in 21 U.S.C. §§ 841 and 960 was wrong and unsupported by authority or legislative history. The Supreme Court denied a request for review of the case.
The trial judge instructed the jury that deliberate avoidance of knowledge can be considered equivalent to actual knowledge in criminal cases. This principle has been established for over a century and is essential to criminal law. Evidence of deliberate ignorance has been found sufficient to establish knowledge in criminal cases. Applying a different interpretation of "knowingly" in the statute involved in this case would conflict with established legal precedent and legislative history.
The meaning of "knowingly" in the Drug Control Act includes a mental state in which the defendant consciously avoids enlightenment. The conviction of Jewell is affirmed. The dissenting opinion disagrees with the majority's decision to affirm the conviction of Jewell on two counts related to importing and possessing a controlled substance. The wilful blindness doctrine is not applicable in this case. The "conscious purpose" jury instruction is flawed because it does not include the requirement of awareness of a high probability of the truth. Therefore, a conscious purpose instruction is only appropriate when combined with a requirement of awareness of a high probability of the truth.
The jury instruction in the case has two flaws that could have allowed conviction without proof of the required mens rea. The defense counsel objected to the instruction before it was given, but the trial court rejected these suggestions. The court would reverse the judgment on this appeal because the erroneous instruction could have allowed conviction without proof of the required mens rea.
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