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Illegal Reentry Into U.S. Accomplished ... In Handcuffs

By William Peacock, Esq. on April 19, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A guy walks into a bar … I mean, walks to the border. Seeking to enter the country, he says, “S’up. I’m a United States Citizen.” He is then admitted into the country … in handcuffs.

There were two problems with Mariano Anguiano-Morfin’s assertion. For one, he had previously been removed from the country, and had his lawful residence revoked. The other issue? Falsely claiming that you are a U.S. Citizen is a crime.

His creative defense was delusions of citizenship.

The elements of 18 U.S.C. § 911 are about what you'd expect:

  1. the defendant made a false claim of U.S. citizenship;
  2. his misrepresentation was willful; and
  3. it was conveyed to someone with good reason to inquire into his citizenship status.

A delusional mind would invalidate the second element of the crime. Anguiano-Morfin even presented expert testimony of his delusions, but alas, the jury sided with the prosecution after the judge refused Anguiano's proposed jury instructions. He appeals that rejection now.

His proposed jury instructions read:

The defense has presented evidence that Mr. Anguiano Morfin genuinely, though mistakenly, believed he was a United States citizen when he claimed to be a United States citizen.

The Government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Anguiano Morfin
knew that his claim to United States citizenship was false.

If, after considering the evidence, you are left with a reasonable doubt as to whether Mr. Anguiano Morfin knew his claim to United States citizenship was false, you must find Mr. Anguiano Morfin not guilty.

Pretty solid, right? The Ninth Circuit agreed, calling the second and third paragraphs "an accurate statement of the law."

However, the instructions given ("Government must prove ... beyond a reasonable doubt" that "the Defendant made such false representation willfully. That is, the misrepresentation was voluntarily and deliberately made.") also conveyed the essential elements of the crime.

Though Anguiano's instructions were better, the instructions used were good enough to express the elements, the defense theory, and the dispositive issue of what Anguiano's state of mind was at the time of the statement, especially in context with the closing arguments.

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