Law School Case Brief
United States v. Walker - 835 F.2d 983 (2d Cir. 1987)
The term "forcibly" in 18 U.S.C.S. § 111 does not mean that force must actually have been used; it is sufficient if force was threatened. Nor need the defendant actually have touched the officer; the force element of 18 U.S.C.S. § 111 may be satisfied by proof that there was such a threat or display of physical aggression toward the officer as to inspire fear of pain, bodily harm, or death. If the force element is to be established by proof of threats rather than by proof of actual touching, the threat must have been of immediate harm. Thus, a mere implied threat of the use of force sometime in the indefinite future would not suffice to violate 18 U.S.C.S. § 111.
Albert Reginald Walker’s probation officer reported Walker’s violations of the conditions of his probation. Walker was then sentenced to an 18-month prison term. After being sentenced, Walker went to his probation officer's office and threatened him. Walker was charged and convicted based on a jury verdict, of violating 18 U.S.C.S. § 111 by forcibly assaulting, intimidating, and interfering with a probation officer. Walker appealed, arguing that the prosecution did not present sufficient evidence that there was enough force to make a reasonable person fear immediate bodily harm and that the prosecution's rebuttal summation impermissibly shifted the burden of proof to the defense.
Was the evidence sufficient to support a conclusion that Walker's behavior would have led a reasonable person to fear immediate bodily harm?
The United States Court of Appeals found that explicit testimony by the probation officer that he feared bodily harm was not necessary and that the reasonable inferences drawn from testimony of the probation officers involved were sufficient to support the jury's verdict. The Court also found that although the prosecution's rebuttal summation was improper, the jury instructions given by the trial court prevented the occurrence of substantial prejudice to Walker. The trial court's judgment of conviction was affirmed.
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