In United States v. Corey, Alvin Scott Corey was found guilty of possessing a firearm as a felon. Although Corey's possession of a Smith and Wesson shotgun violated Maine law, Corey was prosecuted in the United States District Court under the federal statute 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) and its penalty statute, § 924(e). On appeal, Corey argued that one of the requirements for his conviction, proof of the statute's jurisdictional element, had not been satisfied because that proof rested on expert testimony based, in part, on hearsay. The First Circuit Court of Appeals, in a split decision, affirmed Corey's conviction, finding ample precedent for allowing expert testimony based in part on hearsay to prove that Corey's Smith and Wesson traveled in interstate commerce, establishing federal jurisdiction over its possession. The dissenting judge strongly objected to the lack of rigor with which that evidence had been admitted by the trial court, and reviewed by the majority on appeal. Noting that Corey's shotgun could have been made at a Smith and Wesson factory in Houlton, Maine and so might never have traveled in interstate commerce, the dissent argued that a higher standard of reliability and review was particularly in order for evidence establishing federal jurisdiction. This Note examines how a remarkably low standard for asserting federal jurisdiction over felon firearm possession evolved in the United States Supreme Court, how that standard has been interpreted in the lower courts and challenged by recent Supreme Court Commerce Clause jurisprudence, and how a fundamental unfairness inherent to that standard played out in Corey.
Barbara H. Taylor,
Close Enough for Government Work: Proving Minimal Nexus in a Federal and Firearms Conviction: United States v. Corey,
Me. L. Rev.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.mainelaw.maine.edu/mlr/vol56/iss1/7