The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in United States v. Fraser on Tuesday, August 2, 2011.
The Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision. Petitioner was charged as being a felon unlawfully in possession of a firearm and ammunition, possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, and for distributing cocaine. The charges stem from an encounter in which Petitioner shot and killed another man. “As the case progressed toward trial, the government filed a motion in limine, urging the district court to prohibit [Petitioner] from introducing any evidence of the shooting. The government argued that the only question at issue in the charges was whether [Petitioner] was a felon who possessed a gun and ammunition. Why he had those things, the government said, was irrelevant and should be excluded from trial under Fed. R. Evid. 403. In reply, [Petitioner] argued that evidence about the killing would allow him to argue to the jury that his defiance of federal gun laws was necessary to meet [the treat posed by the man he killed] and so justified as a matter of law.”
The Court disagreed with Petitioner’s contentions. “[W]hether or not a necessity defense can be raised to a federal gun charge — a premise subject to several and significant questions — [Petitioner] can’t establish that defense on its own terms as a matter of law.” The district court’s decision to exclude evidence of the killing was no abuse of discretion.