United States v. Jewell, 532 F.2d 697 (1976)

Case Name: United States v. Jewell
Citation: 532 F.2d 697 (1976)

Facts: Jewell was convicted of knowingly transporting marijuana in his car from Mexico. The pot was hidden in a secret compartment behind the rear seat. There was evidence that Jewell deliberately avoided positive knowledge in order to avoid responsibility  (“Willful Blindness”). The trial court judge gave a jury instruction that defendant is guilty if the government shows, beyond a reasonable doubt, that (even though he was not actually aware) his ignorance was solely because he made a conscious purpose to disregard what was in the vehicle to avoid learning the truth.

Defendant’s argument: The state needs to prove that Jewell knowingly brought and possessed the marijuana into the US. The MPC requires the state to prove that the defendant is “aware of a high probability of its existence.”

State’s argument: Jewell interprets “knowingly” to narrow and is not consistent with the purpose of the Drug Control Act. A narrow interpretation would allow deliberate ignorance as a defense.

Holding: Upheld the judge’s instruction and the defendant’s conviction.

Dissent: Three errors in the jury instruction:

  1. The MPC gives a definition of knowledge not an alternative for it (mentions a gift to child)
  2. Did not alert the jury that he could not be convicted if he “actually believed” there was no controlled substance in the car
  3. The instruction clearly stated that the defendant could have been convicted even if found ignorant or “not actually aware” that the car contained a controlled substance


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