Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Ellisa Martinez's case reheard

The 11th Circuit had rehearing on Ellisa Martinez's case in light of the Supreme Court's decision in Elonis.  And this is what happened:
This case is before this Court for further consideration in light of Elonis v. United States, 575 U.S. ___, 135 S. Ct. 2001 (2015). We previously affirmed Ellisa Martinez’s conviction under 18 U.S.C. § 875(c) for knowingly transmitting a threatening communication. United States v. Martinez, 736 F.3d 981 (11th Cir. 2013). The Supreme Court vacated the opinion and remanded the case to us for consideration in light of Elonis. See Martinez v. United States, 135 S. Ct. 2798 (2015).
In Elonis, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded the defendant’s conviction under § 875(c), holding a jury instruction providing “that the Government need prove only that a reasonable person would regard [the defendant’s] communications as threats” was error. 135 S. Ct. at 2012. The Court determined that “[h]aving liability turn on whether a ‘reasonable person’ regards the communication as a threat—regardless of what the defendant thinks”—is insufficient for a conviction under § 875(c). Id. at 2011. The Court cited “the basic principle that wrongdoing must be conscious to be criminal,” id. at 2009, and held that “what [the defendant] thinks does matter,” id. at 2011. While the Supreme Court declined to answer the question of the exact mental state required by a defendant, it held negligence is not enough to support a conviction under § 875(c). Id. at 2013.
Based on the Supreme Court’s holding in Elonis, Martinez’s indictment is insufficient as it fails to allege an essential element of § 875(c). An indictment must set forth the essential elements of the offense. United States v. Fern, 155 F.3d 1318, 1324-25 (11th Cir. 1998). This rule serves the purposes of (1) informing the defendant of the nature and cause of the accusation, as required by the Sixth Amendment; and (2) ensuring a grand jury found probable cause to support all the necessary elements of the crime, as required by the Fifth Amendment. Id. at 1325. The indictment fails to allege Martinez’s mens rea or facts from which her intent can be inferred, with regard to the threatening nature of her e-mail. It alleges only that a reasonable person would regard Martinez’s communication as a threat. Martinez’s indictment does not meet the Fifth Amendment requirement that the grand jury find probable cause for each of the elements of a violation of § 875(c).
In light of the Supreme Court’s holding in Elonis, our holdings in Martinez and Alaboud are overruled. Martinez’s conviction and sentence are vacated, and we remand this case to the district court with instructions to dismiss Martinez’s indictment without prejudice.


Anonymous said...

Part 2 of "You can beat the rap, but can't beat the ride." Ms. Martinez was detained and after he "conviction" spent two years in prison. She may also be done with her term of supervised release.

Rumpole said...

I believe I invented thar phrase in the early 1970's. I should have copyrighted it.