August 6, 2013 4th Circuit published opinion

United States v Lespier

Lespier was convicted of first degree murder and a weapons charge arising form his shooting his ex-girlfriend in the head. The panel affirmed. It held the evidence presented by the government was sufficient as it proved Lespier threated to shoot the victim in the past, had to get the murder weapon from a locked safe, the fatal shot could not be self-inflicted as Lespier claimed, he tampered with the crime scene by moving the body and planting evidence and he gave several false exculpatory statements. The panel held that past bad acts evidence was properly admitted as it was relevant to intent, necessary to prove intent, the trial court thoroughly reviewed each piece of evidence and excluded some items and the probative value outweighed any prejudicial effect. The panel held that the trial court properly excluded psychiatric evidence as to the effects of sleep deprivation as this is in the common experience of the jury. Finally, the panel held that while the trial court erred in not giving a lesser included charge for second degree murder, this was harmless as Lespier personally asked the court not to charge second degree murder as a matter of sound trial strategy.

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