United States v. Bailey

The defendants were caught for violating the law governing escape from federal custody, 18 U.S.C. 751(a), after they had escaped from the jail in the District of Columbia. The respondents claimed during their trial that the circumstances of their prior detention prevented them from being taken back into custody (United States v. Bailey, 444 U.S. 394 (1980), 2017). The court decided that the respondents had fallen short of providing enough proof that would indicate they had fled as a result of the coercive circumstances. In fact, after the disregard of the evidence of the alleged coercive conditions at the jail, the jury found the respondents I violation of § 751(a), and they were jailed consequently.

However, following the ruling of the Court of Appeals, the conviction was reversed on the grounds that though the respondents had not submitted to the relevant authorities as required. Under the alleged coercive conditions, the District Court was supposed to allow for the respective jury to reconsider their position on the new evidence (United States v. Bailey 444 U.S. 394 (1980), 2017). As a result, the Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the respondents by reversal of the District Court’s ruling since it had insufficiently considered the possibility of the evidence of coercive conditions being considered. The Court of Appeals pointed out that the prosecution was expected to prove that a defendant voluntarily left a federal custody without permission and with the confinement avoidance intent. Under § 751(a), the respondent could sustain a conviction when the escapee left the custody when fleeing normal confinement opposed to escaping the custody with intent to avoid non-confinement conditions (18 U.S. Code § 751 - Prisoners in custody of institution or officer, 2017).

Furthermore, several legal issues were brought to light following the ruling of the Court of Appeals. The ruling demonstrated that the respondent’s right to a jury was violated following the omission of the presented evidence (United States v. Bailey 444 U.S. 394 (1980), 2017). The Court held that the prosecution was mandated to fulfill its burden as stipulated under § 751(a) when there was an escapee from the federal custody. In this case, the District Court did not prove that the respondents were well aware of the consequences of their action before they left the confinement.

Besides, for the respondent to be prosecuted for their escape from custody, the respondents are allowed to present evidence that would justify their absence from the confinement. Also, the evidence presented by the respondent has to include bona fide attempt to surrender soonest the duress lost its force of coercion (United States v. Bailey 444 U.S. 394 (1980), 2017). According to the ruling by the District Court, such evidence was not presented and therefore invalidated the entitlement to an instruction on necessity and duress.

Thirdly, the affirmative defense in which several elements consist and it is insufficient to support one of the elements, the jury is not burdened with the testimony that may support the other defense elements (United States v. Bailey 444 U.S. 394 (1980), 2017). As such, in the case of the jail conditions, the jury was supposed to have subjected to hearing on the state of the current federal penal system following the submission of the evidence on the conditions of the jail (18 U.S. Code § 751 - Prisoners in custody of institution or officer, 2017).

Court’s Decision

According to the evidence presented to the court, the decision of the court was delivered by Mr. Justice Rehnquist. The opinion delivered by the Court of Appeals reversed the prior conviction that had denied the respondent the right to a jury (Rehnquist, 2017). In their decision, the court held that the District Court’s improper preclusion of the considerations of the respective juries had violated § 751(a). Under this section, the defenses like necessity and duress are constituted, and therefore, the violation of this section invalidates the decision earlier rendered by the District Court. Therefore, it was imminent to reverse the earlier ruling since it lacks a basis for the rightful prosecution of the defendant.

The Court of Appeal was compelled to rule in favor of reversal of the District Court’s ruling following the possibility that the jury improperly disregarded the evidence concerning the state of the jail (Rehnquist, 2017). The decision, which was arrived at by a divided vote was based on the fact that the respondents had the right to present their testimony regarding the evidence presented. However, by the jury disregarding the evidence, it fails to honor § 751(a) which provides that the respondent can be convicted if the escape was under normal aspects but not when under non-confinement conditions. As per the case, the respondents presented evidence that they had been held under coercive confinement and their escape does not provide the necessary requisite intent in which they can sustain a conviction for the violation of § 751(a).

Furthermore, the court and the jury have to examine the presented evidence to ascertain that there are substantiated factors that demonstrate the intent by the escapee to avoid confinement (United States v. Bailey 444 U.S. 394 (1980), 2017). Since the District Court disregarded the evidence on the coercive conditions of the jail, it is evident that the investigation to determine whether the respondents intended to avoid confinement or avoid the jail condition could not be done. Hence, the ruling by the District Court was non-substantiated (1801. Introduction -- Escape from Custody Resulting From Conviction, 2017).

Dissenting Opinions

However, concerning the applicability of the necessity and duress defense, the minority section of the joined judges pointed out that the District Court had acted according to the definition of the escape under § 751(a), which suggested that escape constituted a continuing offense (Rehnquist, 2017). As such, the longer the escapee is at large, there is the higher propensity of consequent offenses to be committed by the escapee. From their perspective, the respondents had failed to present evidence of the coercive confinement within the required stipulations, and therefore, as stated in § 751(a), the respondents are indicted for escaping and fleeing rather than leaving the custody and staying away. Therefore, the dissent held that the District Court had acted according to the common law by convicting the respondents for their escape from custody, regardless of their intent.

I disagree with the decision of the Court of Appeal on reversing the District Court’s ruling because the District Court had the right to convict the escapees regardless of their reason for escaping. The fleeing and escape of the respondents were a clear violation of the common law because doing the wrong thing or the right reasons do not write off the wrong doing (1801. Introduction -- Escape from Custody Resulting From Conviction, 2017). Hence, escape is considered to be the act in which an individual voluntarily leaves the custody without permission from the relevant authorities.


18 U.S. Code § 751 - Prisoners in custody of institution or officer. (2017). LII / Legal Information Institute. Retrieved 27 August 2017, from https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/751

1801. Introduction -- Escape From Custody Resulting From Conviction (18 U.S.C. §751 And 752) | USAM | Department of Justice. (2017). Justice.gov. Retrieved 27 August 2017, from https://www.justice.gov/usam/criminal-resource-manual-1801-introduction-escape- custody-resulting-conviction-18-usc-751-and

Rehnquist, W. (2017). United States v. Bailey, 444 U.S. 394, 100 S. Ct. 624, 62 L. Ed. 2d 575, 1980 U.S. LEXIS 69 – CourtListener.com. CourtListener. Retrieved 27 August 2017, from https://www.courtlistener.com/opinion/110175/united-states-v-bailey/?q=us+vs+bailey

United States v. Bailey 444 U.S. 394 (1980). (2017). Justia Law. Retrieved 27 August 2017, from https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/444/394/case.html

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