Ninth Circuit Affirms Indian Country Conviction for Strangulation (VAWA)

Here is the opinion in United States v. Lamott.


Opening Brief

Reply Brief

US Brief

An excerpt:

In 2013, Congress added the offense of assault by strangulation to the federal assault statute, 18 U.S.C. § 113. The following year a jury convicted Jordan Lamott under this provision for nonfatally strangling his girlfriend. We must decide whether the jury was properly instructed to disregard Lamott’s voluntary intoxication, which requires us to determine whether § 113(a)(8) is a general or specific intent crime. We also must decide whether the court’s instruction to the jury on assault by strangulation violated Lamott’s due process rights. We hold that assault by strangulation under § 113(a)(8) is a general intent crime, and Lamott’s intoxication was therefore irrelevant. We find no plain error in the court’s instruction on the elements of the offense. Accordingly, we affirm Lamott’s conviction.

A lengthier excerpt:

Violence against Native American women in Indian Country has reached alarming rates in the past few decades. See United States v. Bryant, 136 S. Ct. 1954, 1959 (2016). Recent studies suggest that Native American women experience certain violent crimes at two and a half times the national average. Id. (citing Dept. of Justice, Attorney General’s Advisory Committee on American Indian and Alaska Native Children Exposed to Violence, Ending Violence So Children Can Thrive 38 (Nov. 2014)). Particularly pervasive among violent crime is nonfatal strangulation by domestic partners. See Nancy Glass et al., Non-Fatal Strangulation Is an Important Risk Factor for Homicide of Women, 35 J. Emergency Med. 329, 333 (2008).

Nearly half of domestic violence victims report being choked. Id. at 330, 333. Recent studies show that although nonfatal strangulation often leaves few visible signs of injury, it can cause severe physical, neurological, and psychological complications and often forebodes future domestic homicide. See Donald J. Smith, Jr. et al., Frequency and Relationship of Reported Symptomology in Victims of Intimate Partner Violence: The Effect of Multiple Strangulation Attacks, 21 J. Emergency Med. 323, 327–28 (2001); see also Glass, supra, at 329–33 (concluding that women who have been nonfatally strangled are over seven times more likely to become a victim of homicide with the same partner). The recent increased focus on the dangers of nonfatal strangulation confirms what “[s]urvivors of non-fatal strangulation have known for years”: “Many domestic violence offenders and rapists do not strangle their partners to kill them; they strangle them to let them know they can kill them—any time they wish.” Casey Gwinn, Strangulation and the Law, in The Investigation and Prosecution of Strangulation Cases 5, 5 (2013).

These concerns helped motivate the reauthorization in 2013 of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). 159 Cong. Rec. S480-02, S488 (daily ed. Feb. 7, 2013) (statement of Sen. Udall). In relevant part, the Act amended the federal assault statute to add a provision directed toward victims of nonfatal strangulation by a domestic partner. Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013, Pub. L. No. 113-4, 127 Stat. 54. The newly added section (a)(8) criminalizes “[a]ssault of a spouse, intimate partner, or dating partner by strangling, suffocating, or attempting to strangle or suffocate.” 18 U.S.C. § 113(a)(8).

This entry was posted in Author: Matthew L.M. Fletcher, Criminal, Research and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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