RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: Pomona Police Department
DOCKET NO.: 92-8346
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1993-1994)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
CITATION: 512 US 374 (1993)
ARGUED: Mar 22, 1994
DECIDED: Jun 24, 1994
Amy Wax - for the respondent
Thomas R. Trout - appointed by the court, for the petitioner
Facts of the case
Media for Shannon v. United StatesAudio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 22, 1994 in Shannon v. United States
Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 24, 1994 in Shannon v. United States
The second decision I have today is No. 92-8346, Shannon versus the United States.
This case comes to us on writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
In the Insanity Defense Reform Act of 1984, Congress created a special verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity or NGI, and established a commitment procedure for those defendants found NGI.
At his federal criminal trial, petitioner, Shannon, raised the NGI defense and asked the District Court to instruct the jury that he would be involuntarily committed if the jury found or returned an NGI verdict.
The District Court refused Shannon's request and the jury returned a verdict of guilty.
The Court of Appeals affirmed holding that because there was no directive in the IDRA to the contrary it would adhere to the principle that a jury is not to be informed of the consequences of its verdict.
In an opinion filed with the Clerk today, we affirm.
Like the Court of Appeals, we conclude that nothing in the IDRA requires courts to depart from their well-established principle that a jury is not to be informed of the consequences of its verdict.
We reject Shannon's assertion that Congress, by modeling the IDRA on a District of Columbia Code provision, impliedly adapted a decision of the DC Circuit Court of Appeals endorsing the instructions Shannon now seeks.
The canon of statutory construction upon which Shannon relies that Congress when it adapts statutory language from another jurisdiction, also adapts that jurisdiction's judicial interpretation of the language as inapplicable in this case as Congress departed from the DC Circuit provision in several significant ways.
We also decline to place authoritative weight on a passage of legislative history endorsing the instruction as that passage is in no way anchored in the tax of the statute.
Finally, we reject Shannon's alternative argument that the instruction should be given as a matter of general federal criminal practice.
Shannon contends the instruction as necessary because jurors may be unwilling to return an NGI verdict based on an erroneous belief that a defendant found NGI will be immediately released into society.
Like most federal juries, however, the jury in Shannon's case was instructed to apply the law regardless of the consequences.
We see no reason to depart from the assumption that jurors follow their instructions.
Although we recognize that an instruction of some form maybe necessary under certain limited circumstances to remedy a misstatement by witness or prosecutor.
No such misstatement was made in the presence of the jury during Shannon's trial.
Justice Stevens has filed a dissenting opinion in which Justice Blackmun has joined.