Brief of Amicus Curiae National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers in Support of Appellants, Supporting Reversal.
Argument: The district court's expansive, extraterritorial interpretation of the Military Extrajudicial Jurisdiction Act (MEJA) on which each of the convictions below rests, violates the presumption against extraterritoriality, is contrary to the plain language of the statute, and gave rise to precisely the sort of problems inherent in extraterritorial prosecutions. The district court's expansive interpretation of the venue statute is not supported by the plain language of the statute, permitted unrestrictive forum shopping, and exceeded constitutional venue limitations. The district court's decision to deny the appellants' motion for a new trial based on a key trial witness's new statement, which fundamentally contradicted both that witness's trial testimony and the government's theory of the case at trial, was an abuse of discretion. The prosecution of Mr. Slatten for first degree murder, only after he successfully defeated the government in this court on lesser charges, raises troubling questions of prosecutorial vindictiveness.
Brief of Amicus Curiae National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers in Support of Petitioner and Urging Reversal.
Argument: The Court should reverse the court of appeals' decision and reinforce the principle that, no matter how culpable the defendant's behavior, a conviction may only be obtained under a statute that clearly encompasses the conduct at issue. In addition to the rules of statutory interpretation urged in petitioner's brief, the Court should interpret § 1344(1) in light of the principle that "unless Congress conveys its purpose clearly, it will not be deemed to have significantly changed the federal-state balance." To the extent ambiguity remains after the Court has interpreted the statute, "the tie must go to the defendant" under the rule of lenity.