United States v. Vasquez, No. 17-50564 (5th Cir. 2018)Annotate this Case
The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's convictions for drug trafficking and killing while engaged in various drug-trafficking crimes. Defendant was a hitman for a violent drug cartel and his charges stemmed from efforts to kidnap, torture, and kill numerous people in order to carry out the cartel's purpose.
The court held that, because the underlying drug-trafficking crimes reached extraterritorial conduct, 21 U.S.C. 848(e)(1), which punishes killing while engaged in certain major drug-trafficking crimes, did too. The court found clear congressional intent to punish the killing in addition to the underlying drug trafficking, and therefore held that no double jeopardy violation occurred when a defendant was convicted for both. Finally, the court held that defendant's claims of error regarding the jury instructions were without merit.
The court issued a subsequent related opinion or order on August 24, 2018.