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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:On December 31, 2003, at 10:39 p.m., the Fort Hood Military Police (MP) notified United States Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID) that a traffic accident had occurred on Hood Road near the visitors’ center. The MP relayed to CID information from an eyewitness who was traveling northbound on Hood Road when the accident occurred. The witness stated that as she approached the visitors’ center, she saw a dark sedan parked in the median of Hood Road. Then, another car traveling northbound near the visitors’ center passed the parked sedan and, as soon as it did, veered off of the road into the median. Thinking that the person in the dark sedan was going to help the other driver, the witness called the MP but did not stop to help. A MP officer responded immediately. Upon arrival, the officer observed a vehicle facing north in the median on Hood Road. As he approached, he noticed brain matter and blood scattered on the front seat. Paramedics arrived shortly thereafter, administered first aid to a female victim later identified as Sharie Durr and transported her to Darnell Community Hospital at Fort Hood. CID agents then arrived to investigate. Durr died on the scene. During her autopsy, the medical examiner found a bullet fragment in her head. The examiner determined that the bullet was consistent with a .38 caliber firearm, likely traveled through glass before striking Durr and caused her death. CID’s investigation quickly turned to George Reff. Cell phone records showed calls from Reff to Durr at 10:24 p.m. and 10:25 p.m., and a call from Durr to Reff at 10:25 p.m., minutes before the fatal incident occurred. A search of Reff’s vehicle, which matched the eyewitness’ description of the vehicle parked in the median of Hood Road, turned up gunshot residue and cartridge bullet casings. Additionally, agents found gunshot residue on Reff’s person. CID later interviewed Reff about his relationship with Durr. Reff admitted that he knew Durr and stated that he last saw her at a convenience store close to Fort Hood at 10:30 p.m. on Dec. 31, the night of the murder. Subsequent investigation revealed that Reff purchased a .38 caliber revolver on Dec. 31. In a later interview, Reff claimed that he fired the gun on Jan. 1 and then put it in the back seat of his vehicle. But when an agent began to take Reff to his vehicle to retrieve the gun, Reff told him that he lost the gun or that someone perhaps stole it. Reff later changed his story, stating that he gave the gun to an anonymous friend. Reff’s friends eventually provided agents with strong evidence that Reff was involved in Durr’s death. In addition, after his arrest and imprisonment but before his trial, Reff gave a fellow inmate a somewhat detailed explanation of how he killed Durr. In March 2004, a grand jury’s superseding indictment charged Reff with “First Degree Murder on a Government Reservation.” Specifically, the indictment charged that Reff, on Dec. 31, 2003, murdered Durr “on Fort Hood Military Reservation, a place within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States,” a violation of 18 U.S.C. ��7(3) and 1111(a)-(b). During a two-day trial, the government presented extensive evidence that Reff killed Durr. Reff took the stand and denied killing Durr, but the jury unanimously convicted Reff as charged, and the district court sentenced Reff to life in prison. On appeal, Reff did not challenge the jury’s finding that he killed Durr. Rather, Reff argued that the murder did not occur within federal jurisdiction. The jurisdictional component of the federal statute was not a disputed issue at any time before the appeal. Reff argued that the government provided insufficient evidence for the jury to find that he committed the crime within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States. Second, Reff contended that the district court reversibly erred, because it did not define for the jury the phrase “special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States.” HOLDING:Affirmed. 18 U.S.C. �1111 applies to murders committed “[w]ithin the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States.” Section 7(3) specifies that the phrase “special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States” includes: “[a]ny lands reserved or acquired for the use of the United States, and under the exclusive or concurrent jurisdiction thereof, or any place purchased or otherwise acquired by the United States by consent of the legislature of the State in which the same shall be, for the erection of a fort, magazine, arsenal, dockyard, or other needful building.” Reff argued that a trial court cannot presume that the area around Fort Hood’s visitors’ center where the murder occurred is within federal jurisdiction. But the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals did not agree that such a presumption applied to the case. Without qualification, the court stated that military reservations such as Fort Hood fall within the definition of “special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States” under 18 U.S.C. �7. Crimes committed within the confines of federal military reservations fall within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States, the court stated. The court also found that the government established at trial that the visitors’ center was within the boundaries of Fort Hood and therefore within federal jurisdiction. Reff further argued, the court stated, that even if Fort Hood was within federal jurisdiction and the visitors’ center was on Fort Hood, the government failed to prove that the murder was committed near the visitors’ center. Reff, the court stated, correctly noted that the proper inquiry is where the fatal injury was inflicted, not where the death occurred. Reff speculated that Durr could have been shot in the head while driving somewhere off the reservation. Then her car could have traveled onto the reservation before coming to a stop. The court overruled Reff on the issue. The court’s appellate review, the court stated, is limited to ensuring that a miscarriage of justice did not occur. Because at least some evidence, the court held, suggested that Reff shot Durr in the head at or near the visitors’ center on Fort Hood within federal jurisdiction, Reff did not satisfy his burden to show a miscarriage of justice. Reff, the court stated, next contended that the district court reversibly erred by not giving the jury a more specific instruction regarding the phrase “special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States.” But the court noted that the jurisdictional element went undisputed at trial; thus, Reff waived any error. In sum, the court held that sufficient evidence supported Reff’s conviction and that the district court’s jury instruction did not constitute plain error. OPINION:Per curiam; Higginbotham, Smith, and DeMoss, J.J.

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