Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Monday, August 24, 2009

Felts: No Plain Error in not instructing jury in the conjunctive

In U.S. v. Felts, No. 08-11450 (Aug. 21, 2009), the Court held that there was no plain error in a money laundering jury instruction.
The money laundering statute at issue made it unlawful to transport funds either to promote specified unlawful activity, or to conceal the nature of the proceeds of the specified unlawful activity. The jury instruction in Felts charged the violation of the statute in the conjunctive, that is, the jury was instructed in a single paragraph that either intent to promote or intent to conceal would be valid bases to convict. Felts argued that the jury should have been instructed that it had to agree as to which mental state existed.
Rejecting the argument, the Court noted that the distinction between the two mental states was "minimal." Thus, there was little, if any, risk of unfairness in not treating each mental state – intent to conceal vs. intent to promote – as a separate violation.