Fowler v. United States Case Brief

Facts of the Case

“While preparing to rob a bank, petitioner Fowler and others were discovered by a local police officer, whom Fowler killed. Fowler was convicted of violating the federal witness tampering statute, which made it a crime “to kill another person, with intent to… prevent the communication by any person to a [Federal] law enforcement officer” of “information relating to the… possible commission of a Federal offense.” Rejecting Fowler’s argument that the evidence was insufficient to show that he had killed the officer intending to prevent him from communicating with aofficer, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit held that a showing of a possible or potential communication to federal authorities was sufficient. Fowler filed a petition for certiorari, which was granted.”


Does a state law requiring presidential electors to vote the way state law directs or else be subject to a fine violate the electors’ First Amendment rights?


“Yes. The Supreme Court vacated and remanded the lower court order in a decision by Justice Stephen Breyer. “The Government must show that there was a reasonable likelihood that a relevant communication would have been made to a federal officer,” Breyer wrote. Justice Antonin Scalia filed an opinion concurring in the judgment in which he wrote that “although I agree the case should be remanded for the Eleventh Circuit to consider whether the objection to sufficiency of the evidence was preserved or whether the District Court committed plain error, I would hold that there was insufficient evidence to support Fowler’s conviction.” Meanwhile, Justice Samuel Alito filed a dissenting opinion, in which Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg joined. The majority opinion ” veers off course when it goes on to hold that the prosecution was required to show that, if Officer Horner had not been killed, there was a ‘reasonable likelihood’ that his information would have reached a federal officer,” Alito wrote.”

Case Information

Citation: 563 US (2011)
Granted: Nov 15, 2010
Argued: Mar 29, 2011
Decided: May 26, 2011
Case Brief: 2011