United States District Court, D. New Mexico
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
CHRISTINA ARMIJO, JUDGE
MATTER is before the Court on the United States'
Motion in Limine to Exclude Irrelevant Evidence.
[Doc. 92');">92] The Court, having considered the parties'
submissions, the relevant law, and being otherwise fully
advised in the premises, hereby
DENIES-IN-PART the Motion.
United States seeks to prevent Defendant from testifying or
otherwise presenting evidence that "his criminal acts
are excusable or otherwise justifiable because: a) [Defendant
believes] that the 2nd Amendment to the United States
Constitution supersedes 18 U.S.C. §92');">922(g) rendering the
statute unconstitutional; and b) he makes methamphetamine as
a medication to treat his ailments." [Doc. 92');">92, p. 2] The
specifics of the parties' arguments are discussed as
Belief about the Second Amendment
argues that his testimony concerning his belief that the
Second Amendment allows him to possess firearms
"regardless of his alleged status as either a drug user
or a convicted felon" is relevant and permissible under
Federal Rule of Evidence 402. [Doc. 104');">104, pp. 1, 4] Defendant
relies on analysis by the Court in United States
v. Courtney, 960 F.Supp.2d 1152, 1163-1168, 1196-97
(D.N.M. 2013) (discussing the Framer's view of the Sixth
Amendment and concluding that certain Framers believed that
juries should have the power of nullification). Accordingly,
Defendant argues that:
While Mr. Warwick may not have a right to a jury instruction
regarding jury nullification, the power of a jury to find a
defendant not guilty despite the evidence still exists. As
such, the reasons behind Mr. Warwick's alleged possession
of the firearms and his beliefs surrounding his understanding
of the Second Amendment become relevant as they may assist
the jury in rendering a verdict in the matter. Should the
jury wish to exercise its role as arbiter of the fairness of
the law and its applicability in this matter, it must have
information from the defendant to help guide and support its
decision making process.
Mr. Warwick is of the belief that application of 18 U.S.C.
§ 92');">922 to him is inappropriate given the freedoms granted
by the Second Amendment and that the jury in his case should
have the opportunity to weigh in on the fairness of the
statute. Accordingly, since a jury could rule in favor of Mr.
Warwick simply because they believe that the law is unfair,
Mr. Warwick's beliefs concerning the Second Amendment are
relevant because it might help a juror make such a decision.
[Doc. 104');">104, p. 4');">p. 4] Neither the rules of evidence nor
controlling case authority supports Defendant's position.
is relevant if: (a) it has any tendency to make a fact more
or less probable than it would be without the evidence; and
(b) the fact is of consequence in determining the
action." Fed.R.Evid. 401. It is the Court's duty to
instruct the jury as to what the law is, and, accordingly,
Mr. Warwick's belief as to what the Second Amendment
means is irrelevant. Fed.R.Evid. 401, 402; United States
v. Grismore, 546 F.2d 844, 849 (10th Cir. 1976)
("It is well-established that the court instructs the
jury as to the rules of law and that the jury applies the
facts as they find them to those rules.. . .
criminal defendant is not, of course, entitled to have the
jury instructed that they can disregard the law."
(Internal quotation marks and citations omitted)); see
also Braswell v. United States, 224 F.2d 706, 710 (10th
Cir. 1955) (holding that mistaken understanding regarding
one's status as a person prohibited from possessing a
firearm was a mistake of law, and thus, "no
relies on the decision in Courtney to argue that
jury nullification has a role within the judicial system, and
therefore, testimony which would "help a juror
make" a decision that a "law is unfair" should
be permitted. [Doc. 104');">104, pp. 2-4] I am not persuaded. The
discussion in Courtney regarding the role of jury
nullification was dicta and is not controlling, either on the
issue of jury instructions (the issue in Courtney)
or on the issue of evidentiary matters (the issue here). In
Courtney, the Court stated that the defendant
perhaps should be afforded the opportunity to have the Court
instruct the jury, or his counsel be allowed to tell the
jury, that, if it finds "the law arising in the case is
different from that which the court advances, " the
jurors are "bound by their oaths, by their duty to their
creator and themselves, to pronounce according to their own
convictions, " rather than according to the dictates of
Courtney, 960 F.Supp.2d at 1196. However, the
Courtney court ultimately held that, while it believed that
current Supreme Court and Tenth Circuit law refusing to allow
the Court to instruct a jury regarding the possible penalties
for conviction is "inconsistent with the Framers'
intent in ratifying the Sixth Amendment jury trial right,
" controlling law required denial of the requested
instruction. Id. at 1196-97. The defendant ...