United States v. Wolfname

While responding to an early-morning 911 call, Officer Blaine Parnell of the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs, attempted to arrest Jakota Wolfname on two outstanding tribal warrants. Parnell ordered Wolfname to put his hands behind his back; instead, Wolfname ran away. As the result of his flight from Parnell and the ensuing scuffle, a grand jury indicted Wolfname for “knowingly and forcibly assault[ing], resist[ing], and interfer[ing] with” Parnell while Parnell “was engaged in the performance of his official duties, which resulted in bodily injury to . . . Parnell.” The jury found Wolfname guilty of resisting and interfering with Parnell in violation of 18 U.S.C. section 111(a)(1). It also found that Wolfname made physical contact with Parnell. But the jury wrote, “No,” next to the assault option on the verdict form. And despite testimony from Parnell and his orthopedic surgeon indicating that Parnell suffered damage to a ligament in his thumb during the struggle, the jury also declined to find that Wolfname inflicted bodily injury on Parnell. The district court imposed a 24-month prison sentence. Wolfname appealed. In this case, the parties asked the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals to decide whether assault was an element of every conviction under 18 U.S.C. 111(a)(1). The Tenth Circuit found that the district court erred in failing to instruct the jury it had to find Wolfname assaulted Parnell. This error was plain error, and warranted reversal. View "United States v. Wolfname" on Justia Law