LEWIS v. UNITED STATES

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
96-7151
Petitioner 
Lewis
Respondent 
United States
Advocates
(Department of Justice, argued the cause for the respondent)
(Argued the cause for the petitioner)
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Facts of the Case 

While living on the federal Army base Fort Polk, Debra Faye Lewis was charged with the murder of her four year-old daughter. Under the federal Assimilative Crimes Act (ACA), which provides that "whoever within... any [federal enclave], is guilty of any act or omission which, although not made punishable by any enactment of Congress, would be punishable... within the jurisdiction of the State... in which such place is situated, ...shall be guilty of a like offense and subject to like punishment," Lewis' indictment charged a violation of Louisiana's first-degree murder statute. Lewis was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment without parole by the District Court. On appeal, the Court of Appeals reasoned that the ACA did not apply because Congress made Lewis' acts punishable as federal second-degree murder. The appellate court, however, affirmed Lewis' conviction because the jury had necessarily found all of the requisite elements of federal second-degree murder.

Question 

Does the federal Assimilative Crimes Act make Louisiana's first-degree murder statute applicable on a federal Army base located in Louisiana?

Conclusion 
Decision: 8 votes for Lewis, 1 vote(s) against
Legal provision: 18 U.S.C. 13

No. In an 8-1 opinion delivered by Justice Stephen G. Breyer, the Court held that, because the ACA does not make Louisiana's first-degree murder statute part of federal law, the federal second-degree murder statute governs Lewis' crime. Because the federal second-degree murder statute does not mandate a life sentence, but rather provides for a sentence of "any term of years or life," Justice Breyer wrote for the Court that Lewis was also entitled to resentencing. Justice Antonin Scalia wrote a concurring opinion in which Justice Clarence Thomas joined. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote a dissenting opinion.

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LEWIS v. UNITED STATES. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 10 September 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1997/1997_96_7151>.
LEWIS v. UNITED STATES, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1997/1997_96_7151 (last visited September 10, 2014).
"LEWIS v. UNITED STATES," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed September 10, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1997/1997_96_7151.