Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Fowler: "Possible" Investigation Sufficient for 1512 Murder Liability

In U.S. v. Fowler, No. 08-15463 (April 14, 2010), the Court found sufficient evidence to support a conviction for murder with the intent to prevent a person from communicating information about a federal offense to a federal law enforcement officer, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512(a)(1)(C).

Fowler shot a police officer in the back of the head while the officer had stopped a group of persons who were preparing to rob a bank, and who possessed firearms, a stolen car, and narcotics – i.e., were committing federal crimes that “could have led to a federal investigation and prosecution.” Consequently, Fowler had the requisite mens rea to violate 18 U.S.C. § 1512(a)(1)(C), which criminalizes killings intended to prevent communication relating to “possible commission” of a federal offense. (Emphasis in original). Citing U.S. v. Veal, 153 F.3d 1233 (11th Cir. 1998), which similarly interpreted a similarly-worded statute, the Court held that the government need only prove “that the defendant intended to prevent the murder victim from potentially communicating with federal law enforcement officials generally about a possible federal offense.”