United States v. Edell Jackson, No. 22-2870 (8th Cir. 2023)Annotate this Case
Defendant appealed his conviction for unlawful possession of a firearm as a previously convicted felon. He argued that the district court erred when it instructed the jury on the elements of the offense and when it responded to two questions from the jury during deliberations. He also contended that he had a constitutional right under the Second Amendment to possess a firearm as a convicted felon.
The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that Defendant’s argument is foreclosed by United States v. Stanko, 491 F.3d 408 (8th Cir. 2007). Therefore, the district court did not abuse its discretion when it instructed the jury on the first element of the offense. Further, the court held that the instructions provided that in making the determination about knowledge, the jury may consider whether Defendant reasonably believed that his right to possess a firearm had been restored. The instruction allowed Defendant to argue and a jury to find that he lacked the requisite knowledge due to a belief that his rights had been restored. Further, the court concluded that the district court was correct that Section 922(g)(1) is not unconstitutional as applied to Defendant based on his particular felony convictions. The court explained that legislatures traditionally employed status-based restrictions to disqualify categories of persons from possessing firearms. Whether those actions are best characterized as restrictions on persons who deviated from legal norms or persons who presented an unacceptable risk of dangerousness, Congress acted within the historical tradition when it enacted Section 922(g)(1) and the prohibition on possession of firearms by felons.
Court Description: [Colloton, Author, with Smith, Chief Judge, and Benton, Circuit Judge] Criminal case - Criminal law. The instruction given on the elements required for a conviction under 18 U.S.C. Sec. 922(g)(1) was not erroneous; defendant's argument that the court should have provided the jury with the statutory language from Sec. 921(a)(20) and allowed the jury to decide whether his right to possess a firearm had been restored is foreclosed by this court's decision in U.S. v. Stanko, 491 F.3d 408 (8th Cir. 2007) as the question of whether a conviction satisfies the criteria under Sec. 921(a)(20) is a question of law for the court; the instruction was also consistent with Rehaif as it allowed defendant to argue, and a jury to find, that he lacked the requisite knowledge due to a belief that his rights had been restored; the district court did not abuse its discretion in answering two questions from the jury; argument that 18 U.S.C. Sec. 922(g)(1) is unconstitutional as applied to defendant because his prior drug offenses were non-violent and do not show that he is more dangerous than the average person rejected; Congress acted within the historical tradition when it enacted the prohibition on possession of firearms by felons.
The court issued a subsequent related opinion or order on August 30, 2023.