June 18, 2019

Tenth Circuit: Defendant’s Admission of Being Born in Mexico is Sufficient Evidence to Conclude Defendant Was Neither a Citizen Nor a National

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in United States v. Sierra-Ledesma on Thursday, June 2, 2011.

The Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s conviction and sentence. Petitioner was convicted of having been found in the United States, without the express consent of the Attorney General, after having been deported. He now claims that the district court improperly failed to instruct the jury as to the mens rea required for conviction and that the government failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was not a national of the United States.

The Court disagreed with all of Petitioners claims. The Court found that the mens rea is satisfied by proving Petitioner’s “intent to do the act of entering the country.” Even though the district court erred in its jury instructions regarding the “knowingly” element of the mens rea, it did no reversible harm; Petitioner admitted in a sworn statement that he illegally reentered the United States without permission after his last deportation by walking across the border. Additionally, because Petitioner admitted he was born in Mexico, “a jury could reasonably conclude he was not born in the United States or in the only two United States territories in which birth does not accord citizenship but only national status . . . . As a result, the Government presented sufficient evidence from which a reasonable jury could conclude [Petitioner] was neither a citizen nor a national of the United States at the time alleged in the indictment.”

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