Law School Case Brief
United States v. Bello - 194 F.3d 18 (1st Cir. 1999)
Fed. R. Evid. 201 governs only judicial notice of adjudicative facts. A judicially noticed fact must be one not subject to reasonable dispute in that it is either (1) generally known within the territorial jurisdiction of the trial court or (2) capable of accurate and ready determination by resort to sources whose accuracy cannot reasonably be questioned. In a civil action or proceeding, the court shall instruct the jury to accept as conclusive any fact judicially noticed. In a criminal case, the court shall instruct the jury that it may, but is not required to, accept as conclusive any fact judicially noticed.
Defendant, Jesus Bello, was a prisoner confined at MDC-Guaynabo where he worked as a food service orderly, serving food to other prisoners. In this capacity, he was responsible for ensuring that food was distributed to all inmates. At around 5:00 PM on July 23, 1996, Bello refused to serve Santana a second helping at dinner because five other inmates had yet to eat. Santana then threatened Bello that he and other inmates were going to crack open Bello’s head. After making the threat, Santana sat down with several other inmates, including one "Porra." Porra later advised Bello that Santana planned to attack him while Bello was working out in the recreational yard of the prison. On July 25, 1996, at around 11:30 AM, Santana was playing dominoes with other inmates in the recreational yard. Bello noticed Santana's presence, and he became alarmed when he further noticed that the table for playing dominoes, which was ordinarily in the prison's game room, had been moved into the yard where it now stood only a few feet away from where Bello intended to exercise. Bello grabbed a push broom from the corner of the yard, walked towards Santana and, once behind him, Bello hit him in the back of the head with the push broom head. Santana collapsed, unconscious, and was taken to the hospital where he was operated on to relieve an epidural hematoma (a blood clot under the skull). Santana survived and regained consciousness six days later. Bello was indicted on one count of assault. The jury found Bello guilty of the assault. Subsequently, Bello appealed his conviction, asserting that the trial court erred in refusing to instruct the jury on the elements of self-defense.
Did the trial court err in refusing to instruct the jury on the elements of self-defense?
On appeal, the appellate court held that the defendant was not entitled to a jury instruction on self-defense or duress because there was no evidence that he was in immediate danger at the time he committed the assault. According to the Court of Appeals, it lacked jurisdiction to review the trial court's discretionary decision not to depart from the guideline sentencing range, because there was no indication that the trial court believed that a downward departure was unavailable as a matter of law. The court concluded that the defendant was not entitled to a reduction in offense level for acceptance of responsibility because a claim of self-defense is a denial of an essential factual element of guilt for the purposes of such a reduction.
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