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Case Basics
Docket No. 
Keith Jacobson
United States
(on behalf of the Petitioner)
(on behalf of the Respondent)
Facts of the Case 

Before the Child Protection Act of 1984 rendered it illegal, Keith Jacobson, the petitioner, purchased a magazine including photographs of nude minors. In 1985, government agencies began investigating Jacobson's interest in child pornography. Over the course of about 2 ½ years, they sent him mailings from 5 fictitious organizations and one non-existent pen pal all promoting sexual liberation and challenging government censorship. After Jacobson was somewhat responsive, a government agency attempted to sting him by selling him child pornography which he purchased, resulting in his arrest and conviction. The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed.


Did the prosecution against Jacobson prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that agencies of the United States Government did not incite his violation of the Child Protection Act?

Decision: 5 votes for Jacobson, 4 vote(s) against
Legal provision:

No. In a majority decision authored by Justice Byron R. White, the Court determined that, the prosecution was unable to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Jacobson was inclined to commit the criminal act of purchasing child pornography independent of government interference. Doubt stems from the fact that government agencies may have actually encouraged Jacobson to break the law in their effort to prosecute him. Since the Court found that the prosecution failed, the decision of the Court of Appeals and Jacobson's conviction were reversed.

Cite this Page
JACOBSON v. UNITED STATES. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 26 August 2015. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1991/1991_90_1124>.
JACOBSON v. UNITED STATES, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1991/1991_90_1124 (last visited August 26, 2015).
"JACOBSON v. UNITED STATES," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed August 26, 2015, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1991/1991_90_1124.